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Winter Driving Tips

AAA recommends that all drivers have the
 following equipment in a winter emergency kit:

  • A cell phone

  • Flashlight

  • Small snow shovel and brush

  • Traction mats

  • Ice scraper

  • Battery booster cables

  • Warm blanket

  • Flares/triangle warning devices

  • Heavy gloves

  • Windshield washer fluid

  • First aid kit

  • Bottled water

  • Energy bars

Winter driving conditions have arrived in full force throughout the country and no matter how experienced you are behind the wheel, that means the roads do get more dangerous. According to Dr. Tom Maze, professor of civil engineering at Iowa State University, drivers in heavy snowfall are just as likely to have an accident as those with a blood-alcohol level of 0.13. AAA of Michigan reports that the number of aid calls it receives per day doublesófrom 2,000 to 4,000 Ė with every snowfall.

According to Greg Stevens, senior technical leader for vehicle dynamics at Ford Motor Company, car technology has come a long way, but it canít take the place of common sense.

"Newer cars like the Ford Fusion offer traction control and antilock brakes, which do a great job of helping keep control in bad weather. But, you still have to modify your driving habits. With snow or ice on the road, the limiting factor is tire grip for braking or cornering."

Stevensís advice is simple Ė "Slow down, allow more time for braking, and stay alert."

Development engineer Jamie Cullen agrees. For Cullen, it can be winter all year round as he travels to wherever winter conditions are to test Ford cars and trucks. "We pretty much replicate every test conducted on dry pavement in snow," said Cullen. "We test in Michigan, Manitoba, Sweden, and my native New Zealand."

From his experience, here are Cullenís top five winter driving tips to try and remain accident free:

1. Tires: The most important thing you can do is have good tires. If theyíre getting close to the wear bars, you should have them replaced. Make sure your tires are at the correct pressure; tires that were at the specified pressure in summer will probably be low with the colder temperatures experienced in winter.

2. Brake earlier: Most people think they have more grip than they actually do, which leads to sliding right through the intersection. If youíre coming to a turn or a stop, start applying brake pressure twice as early as on dry roads.

3. Let ABS work for you: If your vehicle has an antilock braking system (ABS), you may feel a vibration in the brake pedal as the system prevents wheel lock up. Keep firm pressure on the brake pedal until your vehicle comes to a complete stop. Do not pump your brakes if your car has ABS.

4. Unwind the steering wheel: As the front tires begin to slip, most people tend to turn the wheel even more. However, the tires already canít cope with the current situation, so asking them to do more isnít the answer. Instead, Cullen recommends turning the wheel back slightly and tap the brakes a little to put more weight on the front end to help the front tires regain traction.

5. Be prepared: On a vehicle development test or on a winter vacation, Cullen always brings warm clothes, heavy boots and a blanket. Cullen also carries a multi-tool, a first-aid kit, and a cell phone, just in case.

Finally, donít let your guard down halfway through the season. According to Craig Layson, owner of Stony Creek Collision in Ypsilanti, Mich., the worst accidents usually happen later in the season: "For the first snow of the year, most people do slow down, and the majority of cars we see have simply slid off the road, with damage limited to their sides and suspension. Itís the last snowfall of the season where we see the most damage. People are more comfortable driving in the snow, arenít slowing down like they should, and that usually results in more serious accidents."


13: The number of times more likely to be involved in an accident while driving in heavy snow than under normal conditions. That is the same elevated risk as driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.13.
Iowa State University

$248 million: Economic impact of winter-related accidents in the state of Iowa alone.
Iowa State University

1.5 million: Annual weather-related accidents in the U.S., accounting for 800,000 injuries and 7,000 fatalities. National Academy of Sciences

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