Drive Safe! Winter Safety Tips for Tackling the Road

How to tackle bad weather when you're behind the wheel.

Feb. 2, 2011 — -- We all can agree: This has been a treacherous winter for much of the U.S.

Americans may be winter weary, but they are bearing the brunt of yet another severe winter storm -- an enormous system that's expected to cover at least one-third of the country with snow, ice and rain.

February may not bring any relief.

So what can you do if you absolutely have to drive when the weather is bad and roads are slick, snow-covered and downright dangerous?

Mark Cox of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colo., appeared on "Good Morning America" to share safe driving tips for when you have to be out in winter's worst.

Safe Driving Tips

Avoid the Phantom Shoulder: When a road grader or truck plows, it pushes snow to one side of the road. That snow can often appear to be an extension of the road – like a very wide shoulder – but often it's is just covering a ditch or drop-off, Cox said. If you get a wheel in that ditch, your car could go off the road.

If you have to pull over, slow down first and ease over slowly. If you start to feel the car sinking, you can pull away, Cox said.

Use Your Headlights All the Time: It's important to use your headlights in the daytime, not so much so that you can see, but so that other cars can see you, especially in periods of low visibility, Cox said.

The rule of thumb is that anytime you need to turn your wipers on, you should turn your lights on as well, he noted.

Sunglasses in Winter?: Snow can be really bright. Wearing sunglasses in low visibility conditions can help with your depth perception, allowing you to see the rises and dips that may not appear to the naked eye, Cox said. He advised investing in a pair of sunglasses with yellow or amber lens.

Batteries Can Take a Beating : Severe cold can drain a battery of 40 percent of its cranking power, Cox said. It's important to have jumper cables and know how to use them.

Other Essential Winter Driving Tips

Here are some other winter driving tips from the Bridgestone Winter Driving School.

Use winter tires for winter. All-season tires won't get the same traction in winter as winter tires will.

Service your cars before bad weather begins, making sure the braking, suspension, charging and cooling systems are in good order.

Make sure your exhaust system is free of leaks. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer.

Be sure to clean the snow from your car before you start driving. Flying snow and ice can be hazardous to other motorists. Ensure headlights and taillights are clean so other drivers can see you.

Test road conditions frequently when you are driving in bad weather so you'll know how much traction is available.

Is your battery working properly? Have it tested before winter arrives.

Replace your wiper blades.

If ice and snow have accumulated in the wheel wells of your car, it could affect the control of your vehicle. To prevent snow build-up, spray the wheel wells with silicone.

Carry winter clothes – including boots, gloves and hats, food, a cell phone charger, blanket or sleeping bag, tow strap, flashlight, jumper cables and other essential safety gear in your car on every trip. Don't ever assume your time on the road will be uneventful. You could get stuck in snow or in traffic for extended periods and you may need these items to survive.

Not all brakes are the same. In emergency braking situations, the driver can pump regular (non anti- lock brakes) to stop -- but must release the brakes in order to steer. Anti-lock brakes allow the driver to press and hold the pedal. The car's computer will continue pumping the brakes, while allowing the driver control over steering.

Don't follow the car in front of your own too closely. Stopping on ice and snow require four to 10 times more distance than stopping on dry pavement.

If your rear wheels spin and the car starts to skid, it is oversteering. Don't stomp the brake pedal. Steer into the direction of the skid and accelerate smoothly. In rear-wheel drive vehicles, steer into the skid and don't accelerate until you regain your grip on the road.

If you car won't turn into a curve and the front wheels are skidding, the vehicle is understeering. Hitting the brake in a panic will make it much worse. Take your foot off the accelerator and adjust your steering wheel slightly, letting the front wheels regain grip. When grip and steering are fully restored, you can steer smoothly back into the curve. This may go against your natural instinct but it's the only way to correct an understeer.

Click HERE for a complete winter survival guide – with product reviews, safety tips and other useful information.

Click here to return to the "Good Morning America" website.

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