Stay smart, safe on roads today

Published 9:04 pm Thursday, February 11, 2010

If forecasts are accurate, we’ll awake today to a wintry mix of rain and sleet, with ice and snow likely as the day continues. And that spells a “snow day” and lots of winter fun for youngsters and the young at heart. Law enforcement officials have urged anyone who doesn’t need to be on the roads to stay home, just to be safe, and that makes good sense. But many folks will have to head out to work today, and in doing so we must remember that most of us aren’t used to driving in winter conditions. Given that, we’d be well-advised to follow these driving tips, offered by

Driving safely on icy roads

Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.

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Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.

Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.

Keep your lights and windshield clean.

Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.

Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.

Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. If your rear wheels skid…

Take your foot off the accelerator.

Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.

If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.

If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.

If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

If your front wheels skid…

Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.

As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

Stay safe out there today … And stay warm.