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Top 10 tactics for winter driving

A self-proclaimed winter-driving know-it-all shares his best tips

Living in a part of the country known for brutal winters, I’ve developed a kind of know-it-all attitude toward winter driving. But even I’m still learning things.

Case in point: A co-worker who recently moved from Seattle to Cleveland (yes, such things do happen) asked me about driving in the winter.

Sage-like, I began regaling him with tales of some of the worst storms I’d experienced. I thought nothing in Seattle could come close to, say, driving seven hours in second gear through a blizzard in near zero visibility.

Well, apparently Seattle (and these days, just about anywhere else) can get a lot of snow. He told me about a drive home from work that took more than 10 hours due to a combination of heavy snow, rush-hour traffic (which people made worse by abandoning their cars), a Monday Night Football game in town, and not enough snowplows.

Checkmate, my friend.

Bottom line: No matter where you live or travel during the winter, be prepared.

Andy’s top 10 tactics for driving in snow, ice, freezing rain, or fog

1. Allow at least three times more space between you and the car in front of you.

2. Drive at a slower, but constant speed. Don’t drive so slow that other traffic is forced to pass you—go with the flow of traffic and avoid sudden movements.

3. Black ice alert: The “crunch” sound of tires on snow fades when you’re on dangerous black ice—turn the radio off and listen to the road. It also forms from fog or freezing rain. And it’s practically invisible, so be particularly careful on bridges and overpasses, which are colder and freeze earlier.

4. Use lower gears for better traction, especially on hills.

5. Never use cruise control in slippery conditions; skidding or hydroplaning may cause you to accelerate.

6. If your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), keep your foot firmly on the brake when you need to stop on an icy road.

7. If your car doesn’t have ABS, pump the brake rapidly to keep traction when braking on ice or snow.

8. If your car starts to skid, don’t brake at all. Instead, steer in the direction you want to go, then brake smoothly once the wheels regain control.

9. In fog, use low-beam headlights or fog lamps if you have them. High beams will reflect off the moisture and impair your visibility.

10. In heavy fog, slow down and crack your window to hear nearby traffic. Use painted road markings as a guide (if you have a passenger, ask him or her to help watch).

Ok, I can almost hear some of you saying: “Well, that’s just common sense!”

So, if you’re a winter driving know-it-all—like me—feel free to chime in … or share your most epic winter driving “adventure” story.

Tip: Save money while you make sure your car’s ready for winter roads: Check out deals on auto service—and more—at Perkshare.

Sidebar: In case you get in an accident …

If you do get into an accident while out in the winter wonderland, remember that even a minor accident with no visible damage can be costly to repair. So be sure to get the info your insurance company needs to start the claim—the other driver’s name, insurance company, license number, and contact information. At the absolute minimum, take a quick picture of the other car’s license plate with your phone (but you’re much better off getting all the information).

Sources/further reading:

http://www.hanscom.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=19000

http://www.transportation.alberta.ca/Content/docType34/Production/Facts.pdf

http://www.onstarconnections.com/2012/12/surviving-mother-nature-this-driving-season-midwest-northeast/

http://www.mhd.state.ma.us/safetytips/Snow_Ice.asp