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Winter Driving Safety Tips

Amazing, huh? Winter arrived with gusto around the nation over the past couple of weeks, and large parts of Texas — the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex especially — didn't miss out on the fun.

It seemed like the entire nation shut down at different times — and for good reason. After all, perhaps the most shrewd driver's safety tip for surviving such storms comes courtesy of The Weather Channel: “The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can avoid it.”

But let's say you can't stop living and working every time Jack Frost hits town. Here are just a few basic tips for safely driving the snowy and icy streets. It all comes down to five (mostly common sense) rules:

1. Stay vigilant and in control. No drinking. No smoking. Drive with your lights on. Avoid cruise control. Be extra careful on overpasses and bridges (dual air currents make them freeze more easily).

But the best way to keep command over your car is to…

SAFE FOLLOWING DISTANCE
If road conditions are perfect…
At 0 to 35 mph… 2 seconds behind
the car ahead of you
At 35 to 55 mph… 3 seconds behind
At 55 to 70 mph… 4 seconds behind
At night or if there is rain or heavy traffic, double this distance.

If there is ice or fog, triple it.

2. Slow down. Give yourself more room to stop, and you'll have more time to regain control should you first lose it. You should try to triple the normal amount of space you leave between your car and anything ahead.

Slowing down should also help you…

3. Avoid slamming on the breaks. Soft braking reduces likelihood of skidding. In addition to reducing your speed, try driving in a low gear — this should help you avoid the temptation of zipping along, and let your car slow down without locking up the wheels.

But if you should happen to lose control and start to skid…

4. Don't panic. It'll only make things worse. Keep a good grip on the steering wheel. Let the gas pedal up, but don't touch the brake pedal.

If it's your rear wheels, steer in the direction you want your front wheels to go. As you begin to recover, steer slightly right and left as needed to point the car in your intended direction. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply steady pressure. If you don't have anti-lock brakes, press the peddle firmly and hold it, but release the pressure if you feel the car getting out of control. This is safer than “pumping” the brakes like they used to tell us.

If it's your front wheels that are skidding, put the car into neutral until you regain traction. Then calmly steer into the intended direction, and slowly accelerate away.

Still, you might need to…

5. Be prepared. If you do happen to slide into a snowbank or get stuck in deeper-than-anticipated snow, you'll be glad to have a few basic supplies with you. Keep an extra blanket in the car along with some bottled water and snacks just in case you need to wait for help. Kitty litter, sand, gravel and salt can all allow you to lay down some traction, ease your way out (don't spin the wheels — you'll only dig in deeper), and drive away normally.

And if you so happen to get into an car accident and worry that your insurance rates will go up, if your insurance company gives a discount for taking a defensive driving course , our course will qualify. Contact your insurance company to learn whether it gives this discount or not.


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