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Five common mistakes when driving in snow

Hollywood, MD- As the first winter storm prepares to blanket Southern Maryland with several inches of snow, now is a good time to brush up on your driving skills.

First of all, if you don’t need to go out, stay off the roads and allow the road crews to do their job. Each year in the United States, more than 1.5 million accidents are associated with poor driving conditions caused by the weather. Those crashes lead to an estimated 7,000 deaths and more than 800,000 injured.

Most winter weather accidents happen for five main reasons.

1. Your four-wheel drive doesn’t protect you from snow-related accidents. Four-wheel drive vehicles do typically perform better in snowy and icy conditions, but it gives drivers a false sense of security. Four-wheel drive gives you added traction to get through snow covered roads. It does not mean you can speed down the road and make a quick stop. It will not give you the traction you need to brake quickly.

2. Not being prepared. The most dangerous day to be on the roads is the day after the first winter snowstorm. That’s because most drivers haven’t prepared their vehicles for the wintry weather. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Also, check the tread and make sure you have at least a 6/32 inch deep tread. Be sure to check your antifreeze levels, battery power and defrosters. If you need to travel in the winter, keep a snow shovel and kitty litter or sand in your car. These will help you dig yourself out if you slide off the road and give you some traction.

3. Following too closely. By tailgating the car in front you, it’s reduces your reaction time. It’s recommended that you double, or even triple, your normal distances between cars. You want to give yourself a minimum braking distance of six seconds. Also, look ahead for stoplights, stop signs and curves in the road to give yourself adequate time to brake or steer around them.

4. Slamming on your brakes. It’s easy to panic and slam on the brakes. This removes the traction from your tires and takes away the ability to control your vehicle. If you feel your vehicle starting to skid, ease off the accelerator and let the car slow down on its own. If your tire is moving, that means you have some traction and you can steer yourself away from trouble. If your car has an anti-lock brake system, brake with steady, even pressure. If your car doesn’t have ABS, pump the brakes by quickly braking again and again.

5. Driving too fast. This is the biggest cause of accidents in wintry weather. The secret to driving in snow is to slow down. Take your time on the roads and leave early for your destination.

AAA also recommends a few winter driving tips.
-Keep your gas tank at least half full.
-If possible, avoid using your parking brake.
-Do not use cruise control on any slippery surface.
-Always look and steer where you want to go.

Be safe out there!

Contact Joy Shrum at j.shrum@thebaynet.com

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