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December 2010

A few tips for driving in the snow and ice

Most of us do not look forward to driving in snowy or icy conditions. 21st Century Insurance encourages its customers to avoid driving in inclement weather if possible.

A few tips on driving in the snow and ice

However, if you need to drive when the weather is frightful, your safety - and the safety of others - is of the utmost importance. Take a little extra time before driving this winter and review the following safety tips provided by weather.com. We want to make sure your winter driving season is a safe one.

Driving safely on snowy and icy roads

1. 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. A slower speed will also allow you stopping time should a pedestrian cross the street.

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

3. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists and pedestrians.

4. Keep your lights and windshield clean. Make sure your defrosters and windshield wipers are working properly to keep a clear line of sight.

5. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.

6. Don't use cruise control on snowy and icy roads.

7. Be particularly careful on bridges and overpasses that will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.

8. Don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility.

9. Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

When your front wheels skid

1. Take your foot off the accelerator.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.

5. 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.

When your rear wheels skid

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

2. 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.

If you get stuck

1. Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.

2. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.

3. Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.

4. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.

5. Pour sand, cat litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.

6. Call for assistance if necessary.

Portions of this article were published with permission from weather.com.

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