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Top-10 tips for safe winter driving

Winter driving means different potential problems to different drivers in different parts of the country. But many commonsense practices remain universal, whether you’re driving in the snow in the Sierra Nevada or in strong winds and torrential rain in Florida.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) has a downloadable pamphlet for best winter driving practices and it also offer a comprehensive top-10 tips list:

1. Before starting out, remove snow from the entire car so it doesn’t blow onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Make sure your mirrors and lights are clean as well.

2. Don’t use cruise control in precipitation and freezing temperatures.

3. Remember that four-wheel drive helps you to get going quicker, but it won’t help you stop any faster.

4. Familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s braking system. Drivers with anti-lock brakes should apply firm, constant pressure while those without may need to pump the pedal in order to avoid loss of traction while stopping.

Winter driving requires best safety practices.
Winter driving requires best safety practices.

5. Always drive at a speed that matches the prevailing visibility, traffic and road conditions – even if that means driving below the posted speed limit.

6. Compensate for reduced traction by increasing your following distances (normally three to four seconds) to eight to ten seconds.

7. Allow sufficient room for maintenance vehicles and plows, stay at least 15 car lengths (200 feet) back and, if you need to pass, go to the other vehicle’s left.

8. Watch for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, even if the rest of the road seems to be in good condition.

9. If you get stuck in snow, straighten the wheel and accelerate slowly. Add sand or cat litter under the drive wheels to help avoid spinning the tires.

10.If your tires lose traction, continue to look and steer in the direction you want to go. If the drive wheels start to spin or slide while going up a hill, ease off the accelerator slightly and then gently resume speed.

Additional winter weather driving tips are available in AAA’s How to Go on Ice and Snow booklet, which can be downloaded HERE.

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