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Better Winter Driving


For many drivers, navigating on snow and ice is cause for alarm. Few are educated and practiced in how to drive in heavy rain or on slippery surfaces. And, much confusion prevails. So when the weather turns foul, remember these driving tips to steer clear of trouble:

Adjust your speed to current conditions. When driving in challenging conditions, slow down. Decreasing your speed will allow more time to respond when a difficult situation arises. Factors such as the type of vehicle you are driving, the quality of snow tires your car is equipped with, and your abilities as a driver should all be considered in the speed adjustment.

Anticipate difficult situations. Studies have shown that 80 percent of all accidents could be prevented with only one more second to react. In many situations, this second can be gained by looking far enough down the road to identify problems before you become a part of them.

Use grip effectively. When roads are slippery, use all of the grip available for one thing at a time. Brake only before the curve when the car is traveling straight. Taking your foot off the brake before you steer into the curve allows you to use all of the grip available for steering. Don't accelerate until you begin to straighten the steering wheel when exiting the turn. This technique will allow you to be 100-percent effective at each maneuver.

Maintain a comfortable driving environment. A constant flow of cool air will help to keep you alert, and keep the windows clear of frost. Keeping one window slightly open will allow you to hear sirens and other warning sounds more quickly. Avoid large bulky boots, gloves, and coats, and never drive in ski boots.

Wipers on, lights on. Whenever daytime visibility is less than ideal, turning on your lights allows you to see, and to be seen by others. Remember this rule of thumb: wipers on, lights on. When traveling in snowy weather, remember to clear tail lights, signal lights, and headlamps regularly.

Use snow and ice tires. Be aware that an all-season tire is a compromise, and will not perform as well as a snow and ice tire. To maximize safety and control, use the best snow and ice tires available.

Don't overestimate. The capability of four-wheel-drive vehicles is greater than other vehicles, but not limitless. Many drivers mistakenly believe that four-wheel drive is all-powerful. Every type of vehicle depends on four small contact patches where the tire meets the road for traction. This small contact area is the limiting factor of any vehicle on a slippery surface. Four-wheel drive does not improve braking or cornering effectiveness.

Anti-lock brakes can't perform miracles. Don't be misled by anti-lock braking systems. Braking efficiency is limited by the grip available, and the type of tires with which your car is equipped. If you carry too much speed into a corner and then try to brake, even anti-lock brakes won't keep you on the road. Never count on technology to replace good judgment.

Go with lows. Leave your headlamps on low beam when driving in snow or fog. This practice minimizes the reflection and glare, improves visibility, and reduces eye fatigue. When oncoming cars approach, focus on the right side of the roadway to help maintain good night vision.

Wear quality sunglasses. Good quality sunglasses help highlight changes in the terrain and road surface even in low visibility conditions.

Don't overreact. Many people believe that quick reactions make a good driver. The world's best drivers are trained to anticipate problems early and direct the vehicle appropriately before they become involved in a problem. Reacting too quickly can be dangerous if the driver's response is inappropriate.

Keep momentum. Gain speed and momentum on the flat before starting uphill. When the car begins to slow down going up the hill, ease up on the accelerator, allow the car to slow down and crest the hill slowly. If you try and accelerate too hard and spin the wheels, you may lose momentum and not make the top. It's better to make the top at a slower speed than to not make it at all.

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