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Stay Safe this Season: 5 Winter Driving Tips

This winter is supposed to be a slick and snowy one according to the experts. These predictions have many debating how to get over their driving anxiety. For those drivers anxious about road conditions during the next few months, you can build your confidence by following these five winter driving tips:

Stock Up on Supplies

Winter storms can hit quickly and be worse than forecasted. You may not feel comfortable running out to the store once it's happening. Prepare by ensuring you have snow essentials in your vehicle now. Items should include:

• Scraper and brush
• Snow shovel
• Small tool kit
• Material that can provide traction, such as cat litter or sand
• Flashlight and spare batteries
• Booster cables
• Extra anti-freeze
It helps to go beyond this list and prepare an emergency kit, too. This kit can help you when you're in a tough situation during any time of the year. Items to include are:
• Extra clothes
• Blankets, gloves and hats
• First aid kit
• Flares
• Water and energy bars

You should also keep your tank at least half full in freezing weather. If you do find yourself in an emergency situation, you'll be glad you prepared!

Tire Maintenance

Older tires can make driving on slick roads dangerous. Low pressure and treads with little depth give you less traction on the road. They also can make your tires wear out faster.

Cold temperatures cause tire pressure to drop about one pound per square inch for every ten degrees Fahrenheit. Your owner's manual will state what tire pressure your car needs. Be sure to check on it at least once a month. You can purchase your own gage and most gas stations have an air pump for tires.

New tires come at a tread depth around 10/32. To ensure you'll have a safe winter, look for a tread depth that's at least 6/32 inches before the harsh weather hits. You can check this by sticking a penny in the treads and making sure the top of the Lincoln Memorial is always covered. For normal weather driving, most tire manufacturers recommend new tires when you go below 4/32 inches. This can be tested with a quarter instead of a penny. You should see Washington's head is partly covered on most of the tread if the depth is at least 4/32 inches.

If you're on the board of 6/32" treads, you may want to consider snow tires for the winter, then switch back to your other tires when it's warmer.

Dealing with Sliding

To avoid hitting the brakes too hard, you need to maintain a safe following distance between you and the next car. Typically, it's recommended you have three seconds between two cars. You should double that during slippery conditions. Not sure how to tell how many seconds there to the next car? Look ahead for a stationary object such as a light post or sign. When the bumper of the car in front of you passes that sign, start counting seconds. Do this in fair weather so you can eyeball the space you need in bad conditions.

You should also gently apply pressure to gas and brake pedals in slippery conditions. If you are sliding, don't panic! Slamming on the brakes and over-correcting can make it harder to regain control. If you have an anti-lock brake system, you may feel a pulsing movement, which is entirely normal and helping your car regain traction. Do not pump the brakes yourself if you have this technology, as it is doing that work for you.

When the front tires are sliding in front wheel drive vehicles, that means there was too much acceleration or braking. Losing control of the front wheels will impact steering, so you need to hold steady. The key is to wait and help your car gain traction again. You may need to gently steel your car off to the side if there is traffic. Look where you want to go and try to relax.

You need to be in full control when driving on slippery roads. Do not use cruise control and pay attention to your car and your surroundings.

Battery Check-Up

Freezing temperatures can give your battery a beating. Make sure it's fully charged as early as possible. If you know it has been more than three years since you've replaced it, consider purchasing a new one. It's easy to replace and will save you from needing a jump sometime soon.

Most commercial automotive centers will test batteries and electrical systems for free. If you're doing it yourself, make sure connections are clean and tight and no signs of corrosion are visible.

New Technology Available

Auto manufacturers are continually developing new technologies to make driving in slippery conditions safer. Electronic stability and traction controls are a common feature with anti-lock brakes. This is smart technology that can detect if your car is sliding and do things like apply brakes to individual wheels and prevent the wheels from spinning when trying to accelerate.

If you're unsure about your car, look at your options and get a feel for what safety technologies most appeal to you.

Take a Class at a Traffic School

If you're still worried, you can take an online traffic school course to learn safe and defensive driving techniques. You'll handle slippery road better when your calm, but to be calm, you need to be confident. Traffic school classes can give you that confidence.

Defensive driving classes can also help you get a traffic ticket dismissed or reduce the points you received on your license. Learning safe driving techniques will help you protect yourself and your family, making it a wise investment.

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Tags: Driving, Tips, Winter, driving, winter

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