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Are you and your vehicle ready for winter driving?

The arrival of winter weather always means many spinouts and cars in ditches. It also results in many intersection and highway collisions, including multi-vehicle pileups and sometimes severe or fatal injuries.

Many drivers are just not prepared for that first snowfall or freezing rain. They forget how to drive on ice or packed snow. They forget to drive cautiously and leave extra room. Or their vehicles may not be fit for winter. Are you and your car ready for winter driving?

Get the right tires and equipment

Winter tires (snow tires) can make a huge difference in performance and safety. Snow tires can help you get unstuck or drive though big drifts. Most importantly, they can help you stop at icy intersections or prevent your car from sliding forward/sideways when you are trying to turn.

Winter tires improve traction by at least 20 percent and the best snow tires have twice as much grip as all-season tires, according to tire manufacturer Bridgestone. Their research shows that about 60 percent of Canadian drivers use winter tires (they are even required in some Canadian provinces.) By comparison, only about one-fifth of American drivers use snow tires. 

All-season tires are a compromise between winter tires (traction) and summer tires (gas mileage, noise). There is also a myth that snow tires are not necessary on all-wheel drive vehicles. Winter tires do improve driving performance and safety even for 4WD pickups and SUVs.

Whether or not you get snow tires, you should invest in a new ice scraper/snow brush and heavy duty wiper blades. Failure to clear windows sufficiently before driving contributes to many car accidents. Old or worn windshield wipers also put you at risk.

Keep vehicle sensors clean

Many new vehicles have sensors that offer safety benefits. The automatic emergency braking system and the forward collision warning system are two that rely on sensors. If the sensors are covered in ice or snow, there is a good chance they won't work properly.

While it is true that most people drove for years without these sensors, people who are accustomed to driving these new vehicles have become reliant upon the systems. This becomes an issue: They provide a false sense of safety because you are counting on them and they might not work.

The location of these sensors should be noted in the owner's manual. Take the time to look at this so you can ensure that you are keeping them free and clear of snow, ice, and road grime.

The best protection is driver awareness

Because road conditions are often horrendous in the winter, you can’t rely solely only your car's tires and safety systems to remain safe. Instead, employ safe driving skills, take your time and focus on the road.

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