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Winter driving: Relax, back off, keep your distance


Drive safe, stay alert, slow down and stay in control.


Sounds easy, right? These tips might just keep you alive. They’re appropriate anytime you’re behind the wheel, but they’re particularly appropriate when it comes to winter-time driving.


Winter traffic safety starts with a full maintenance check on your vehicle and a gas tank that’s at always at least half filled. Winter tires and chains help, too.


Rain, snow and especially black ice reduce traction. On slippery roads, safety starts with slow speed, gentle stops and turns, and a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. 


During snowfall and icy conditions, reduce your speed to half the speed limit or less. The unsafe effects of low tread depth increase on wet roads and snow so if you’re in doubt, get new tires.


Tire pressure tends to decrease in winter and increase in summer. Under-inflated tires cause a car to react slower to steering. Anytime the temperature drops 10 degrees, the tire’s air pressure decreases by one or two PSI. Keep your vehicles tires at recommended PSI levels at all times.


Road crews use salt to prevent snow and ice from bonding to the road surface, prevent snow build-up and help road crews remove snow. Sand replaces salt when temperatures are too low for salt to be effective or at higher temperatures for immediate traction on hills, curves, bridges, intersections and snow-packed roads.


Snowplows and salt-and-sand trucks travel slowly. Passing snowplows as they’re often obscured by blowing snow. The Academy uses its delayed reporting system during extreme weather conditions to give road crews time to clear the streets.


· Get the feel for the road by starting out slowly. Test your steering and brakes

· Slow at least three times earlier than normal when turning or stopping

· Use chains or winter tires. Chains are the most effective where ice and snow stays on the road. Keep your distance as winter tires can still slide on ice or packed snow

· There is not a safe speed on snow or ice. Be alert until you can judge the level of traction

· Avoid sudden movements of the steering wheel when you’re coming to a stop. Pump the brake gently. Apply steady pressure if your vehicle has anti-lock brakes

· Keep a safe distance between vehicles according to pavement conditions. Many collisions on icy streets occur because drivers don’t have enough space to safely stop

· Don’t drive until the windows are defrosted and clean. Watch for slippery spots. Ice can stay on bridges although the rest of the road seems clear

· Working windshield wipers and defrosters are essential to winter safety. Special wipers remove snow from the windshield and the defroster clears the windshield. Check both before you drive. A change of the vehicle thermostat might help, too.

· Relax and keep your distance. Increase your following distance 10 seconds during extreme weather conditions.

· Don’t worry about the time it takes to get where you’re going

· Staying close to the vehicle in front of you might increase your visibility, but it's also how multi-car collisions occur