Winter driving — are you ready?

Like it or not, winter driving is about to hit us, and so is the usual increase in crashes as we all but refuse to drive more slowly and carefully, or leave in time to get there without driving faster than we should. And every year we read or hear about safe driving tips in the media, and yet we still have the same problems.

And it’s not just the new, inexperienced drivers but drivers of all ages, even experienced ones. In fact, new drivers may even be more cautious until they develop more experience.

The safety tips normally given are the ones we have heard hundreds of times, including, “Drive more slowly. Clean off your windshield, rear window, lights, mirrors. Don’t follow as closely as usual. Use your lights so you can be seen better” — you know the routine. The problem is, we all know what we SHOULD do, but we don’t do these things, for any number of reasons. And since we already know what we SHOULD do, we won’t arbitrarily decide to do it just because we see it or hear it again.

But each year there is always hope, and here’s hoping that the following winter driving tips, which aren’t the usual ones you always hear about, are helpful.

1. The immediate areas where vehicles stop and start, such as just before a stop sign or a traffic signal, are usually more slippery than the rest of the road. This is because of the action of vehicles stopping or starting, especially when tires skid when stopping or spin when starting up again. Expect these areas to be more slippery.

2. In some cases, consider shifting into neutral. By shifting into neutral, your vehicle is no longer being propelled forward by the engine, just the force of gravity from the hill plus your forward momentum. If you do this, make sure you remember to put the vehicle back in drive once you have stopped.

3. On slippery roads, NEVER use cruise control. Cruise control is trying to keep your speed at the pre-set value.

4. The action of tires on snowy roads often causes the usual tire tracks to become more slippery than other parts of the road. Often the immediate shoulder and the middle of the driving lane will have more traction than the part of the road where most drivers drive. Under these conditions, consider driving slightly to the right of the center of the driving lane for better traction. Snow tires or all-weather tires with good tread are also important.

5. Lastly, winter driving requires drivers to pay more attention to their driving than usual. Entering a curve too fast can be fatal. As you approach a curve, you had better know how sharp it really is, and thus how slow you must proceed to safely negotiate it. Slippery conditions make it much more important to observe the warning sign (black lettering on a yellow background), which normally has a suggested speed limit under DRY conditions, meaning your vehicle should be well below this speed.

Just remember winter driving requires an increased awareness of driving conditions and the necessity to adjust accordingly. Drive safely — winter or anytime.


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