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Winter driving pro shares tips

Published on January 7, 2011 3:01AM

Last changed on February 4, 2011 10:19AM

Technique is necessary when driving on ice


Capital Press

Winter weather is here, and farmers and other drivers are advised to think about what they're doing to stay safe on the road.

"Proper winter driving technique translates across every surface and every type of vehicle you're driving," Mark Cox, director of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colo., said. "Good technique is good technique, no matter where you are or what you're driving on."

Cox said many drivers have an attitude that they don't need to learn more about winter driving, but may only have gotten by with 10 to 20 percent of what they need to know.

Bad technique is magnified on ice and snow, while good technique is rewarded, Cox said. Since traction is limited, a driver must make the most of it.

That, Cox admits, is easier said than done.

"While you're steering, you don't accelerate or brake, you just decelerate and coast on through," he said. "Only when you're able to turn the steering wheel back toward straight, you start to accelerate."

To increase fuel efficiency, Cox recommends a constant speed, which goes along with driving on ice and snow to maintain traction. Driving at lower speeds also helps fuel economy, he said.

There's no single good answer for a skid on an icy surface, Cox said.

For front wheel skids, the driver should take his foot off the accelerator or the brake -- whichever he was using before the skid -- and turn the steering wheel back toward straight, allowing the wheels to roll more freely and regain their grip.

"That's the quickest, best way to solve that problem, but it takes a lot of nerve and a little bit of practice beforehand," Cox said. "In essence, what I'm telling you is if your car is sliding uncontrolled toward a cliff, steer back toward the cliff for a second, and that's pretty counterintuitive for most people."

Most trailers have tires designed for summer, with the lowest rolling resistance possible. That's good for a hot day with a heavy load, Cox said, but the same tire is typically a hard rubber and an inflexible tire casing, which is a bad combination when trying to get traction on snow.

Cox advises being aware of the equipment's suitability for the conditions at hand, particularly tires, and then driving within the limits of that suitability.


Bridgestone Winter Driving School: www.winterdrive.com


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