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Friday, January 30, 2009

Let it Snow: Winter Driving Tips

So, you're driving along a lonely stretch of back road, the sun goes down, the temperature drops and all of sudden — boom! — your car is skidding off the road and into a ditch. Black ice.
Winter Driving (Getty Images)
This time of year, as the temperature starts to drop, the accident rate starts to rise precipitously, even on the usually mild West Coast. A few reasons contribute to this factor:
  • Old or non-snow tires on your vehicle
  • Lack of an outside temperature gauge
  • Not being in a winter driving frame of mind
Inside this article, you'll find winter driving tips from experts and the top cars for winter driving.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Recent advancements in winter tire technology, like tread design and rubber compounds, go a long way in adding grip and drivability in wet and cold weather conditions. Buying a separate set of winter rims and tires actually ends up being less expensive in the long run.
"Changing, mounting and balancing tires every six months ends up costing a lot more over three to five years than having a separate winter driving set," says Michelin's winter tire expert, Normand Latremouille.
An all-wheel drive vehicle can help you in inclement weather, too. Mercedes-Benz's Steve Erlichman says, "With four-wheel drive, it comes down to adhesion. The more power you have to all four-wheels and double the grip, the safer and better handling you have in both wet and dry conditions."
Erlichman adds, "A smoothness to your driving in bad weather also helps. Go as smooth on the throttle and brakes as possible. Also, don't make any quick movements that will cause you to break traction. You can't defy the laws of physics and when you lose too much grip, sometimes there is nothing that will help."
Good advice.

Winter Driving Tips From the Experts

Yahoo! Autos spoke with famed rally racing instructor, Tim O'Neil, of the Team O'Neil Rally School for some everyday winter driving tips. O'Neil teaches a 1-day Winter Safety School in Dalton, New Hampshire.
Tim has four tips to keep you safer this winter:
  1. Always monitor the conditions of the road, their surroundings and adjust your speed accordingly. Remember, it's not an accident; it's someone who made a bad decision and drove too fast for the terrain they were on and for the grip of their tires.
  2. Monitor the temperature. Adding a temperature gauge is one of the most important things you can add to your car. It will tell you when the road is either about to freeze or has frozen over.
  3. Listen to your tires. On a wet road the tires make a sizzle sound. If they are quiet; that's black ice. You have three chances to know the black ice is coming: dropping temperature, windshield fogging and the lack of tire noise. Now you're on black ice. Drive safer.
  4. Keep your foot on the gas. When the car starts to slide out of control, people tend to over steer and let off the gas. Lifting off the gas is bad. If you stay on the gas when you start to slide, it will pull you out of the slide. Also, people tend to get 'target fixation'. It helps to look down the road and pick where you want to go. Don't look anywhere else. If you start to skid, look where you want to go, not what you think you'll hit. If you look at that tree, you're going to hit it.
More information at:
Team O'Neil Rally School http://www.teamoneil.com


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