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Driving in snow and ice requires quick reflexes, patience and know-how.

If you can’t avoid driving in wintry conditions, make sure you and your vehicle are ready for the challenge. Also, try to time your trip so you follow snowplows and ice/sand trucks rather than leading the way.

Do you have the right tires?

Worn tires are particularly dangerous on slippery roads. You may want to consider winter tires if you live in an area where driving in ice and snow is a regular occurrence rather than a once-in-a-while event.

According to Edmunds, winter tires are designed to stay pliable and grippy at lower temperatures. However, they need to be replaced more frequently than standard tires. Once they get down to a tread depth of 6/32 inches, they’re no longer effective.

Safety tips

Here are 15 winter driving tips to keep in mind:

  1. Take a few minutes to fully clear your car of ice and snow before starting off. This will give you better visibility, and it’s the law in some places. Motorists have been seriously hurt and even killed in accidents caused by chunks of ice and snow flying off other vehicles at high speeds.
  2. Drive slowly and leave yourself enough room to stop safely. Increase your following distance to six to eight seconds. Also, don’t try to beat out yellow lights.
  3. Use low gears to maintain traction, especially on hills.
  4. Don’t use overdrive or cruise control on icy roads.
  5. Don’t pass snowplows or sand trucks. Take extra care when passing other vehicles on wintry roads.
  6. Keep your windshield clean and make sure your windshield washer system has ample anti-icing fluid. Before you start your trip, make sure the fluid jets aren’t blocked and that your wipers aren’t frozen to the windshield.
  7. Defog the inside of your windows by running your air conditioner. Choose the fresh-air option rather than recirculated air.
  8. Even during daylight hours, drive with your lights on to increase your visibility. Make sure your headlights and taillights are clean and clear of snow.
  9. Brake carefully to prevent skidding. If you feel your wheels starting to lock up, gently ease off the brakes rather than slamming down on them.
  10. Watch out for black ice. Black ice is a thin, slippery glaze that can make the road appear merely wet or even clear and dry, depending on the lighting.
  11. Stay in your lane, especially when visibility is poor.
  12. Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses, off-ramps, shady spots and infrequently traveled roads, which tend to freeze first. (Refer to the black ice warning above.)
  13. Train yourself to respond properly to skids. If you begin to slide, turn in the direction your rear wheels are sliding. If the back end of your vehicle is sliding to the right, for example, turn your steering wheel to the right. Don’t overcompensate or attempt sudden swerves.
  14. Keep your gas tank topped up in the winter to reduce the amount of water vapor that could potentially condense and sink into your fuel pump and fuel lines. This can block fuel flow to the engine.
  15. Don’t get overconfident. Even if you frequently drive in poor conditions and have a car with four-wheel drive and snow tires, accidents still happen. Winter drivers must remain alert at all times.

Make sure you have the right insurance to protect you and your vehicle

Before you venture out in adverse weather, follow these steps to arrive at your destination safely. Also, make sure your auto insurance is up to date. Talk to your insurance agent about your current coverage and discuss any recommended changes to help protect your vehicle (and wallet) from winter hazards.

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