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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Driving tips for winter trips

Lisa Gutierrez Knight Ridder Newspapers

Check windshield wiper blades to make sure they work well. In some instances, specially designed snow blades are an effective alternative to conventional wiper blades.

Have a mechanic test the antifreeze/coolant.

Make sure tires are properly inflated according to the owner’s manual. Underinflated, and overniflated, tires won’t grip the road as well as they should. Plus, if tire tread is worn or thin, they may hydroplane on wet roads.

Always keep the gas tank at least half full. The extra volume will help reduce moisture problems in the fuel system and can add helpful weight to the car.

Keep extra weight in the trunk or truck bed of rear-wheel drive vehicles. (Caution: Unsecured objects can shift while the car is moving or if you stop suddenly.) Bags of sand can add weight and be used on ice to help provide traction.

Keep an emergency kit in the car: blanket or extra clothes, candle with matches, snacks, beverages (never alcohol), flares, a small shovel, flashlight, windshield scraper, tow rope, cat litter or sand for traction and long jumper cables.

If you can move a night trip to daytime, do it. Visibility will not only be better, but if you have an emergency, you’re more likely to receive roadside assistance during the day.

Check road conditions and plan the best route to your destination. Avoid roads with hills, busy streets and bridges if you can. Ice is more likely to form and be most slippery in shaded areas, on bridges and overpasses, and in intersections.

Don’t rush in bad weather.

Cut down on distractions. Don’t play the radio. Don’t talk on the phone or eat while driving. Limit passengers to just one, if possible; carrying on a conversation can be distracting while trying to negotiate wintry roads.

Scrape the ice and snow from every window and exterior rear view mirrors; don’t just clear a patch on the windshield. Also brush off snow from the hood, roof, trunk, turn signals, lights and fender wells.

Try to remove ice and snow from your shoes before you get into the car. As they melt they create moisture in the car, which can fog up the windows inside. To reduce the fogging, turn the air recirculation switch to “off.” You can also run the air conditioner, which will act as a dehumidifier for a few minutes.

Adjust the head rests. Rear-end collisions are common in winter and a properly adjusted head rest can prevent or reduce neck injuries.

Drive like you have no brakes: Cautiously. Remember that the posted speed limits are the maximum speed under ideal weather conditions.

Keep your hands near the horn. The warning you give another driver about to make a dangerous move might save you from a collision.

Always drive with lights on. In fog and heavy snow, low beams light up the road better than high beams.

Don’t drive too close. Keep a 6- to 10-second cushion between you and the car in front of you. If someone is too close behind you, don’t speed up; slow down and let them go around you.

Use a light touch on the brakes. The best technique for stopping on snow or ice is “threshold” or “squeeze” braking. Apply brakes firmly to a point just short of locking up and ease off the brake pedal slightly. Steady pressure is better than “pumping” the brakes. If your car has anti-lock brakes – and many newer cars do – check the owner’s manual for instructions and warnings on how to use them.

Slow down before approaching an intersection. Scan left and right for cars on cross streets. If you’re having trouble slowing down, they are, too.

After a stop, press the accelerator slowly to start again. With manual transmission, reduce wheel spin by starting in second gear. If you have an automatic transmission with a second-gear shift, use it.

When approaching an icy hill, choose a path that will give you more traction.

Watch the cars ahead. Avoid the spots where they spin their tires or slide backward. Head for unpacked snow or powder instead, for a better grip.

If your wheels lose grip, gradually release pressure from the brake or accelerator.

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