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Mark Phelan: Winter driving safety tips: What to do before weather gets bad

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

How's your washer fluid?

Whether you live in an area where cold temperatures, snow and ice are routine or occasional, the beginning of the holiday driving season is a good time to make sure you and your vehicle are ready for winter. Climate change has made regions well beyond the traditional frost belt susceptible to tricky, even dangerous, conditions.

In fact, cities that didn't traditionally get freezing rain or snow are now susceptible to dangerous conditions. Accumulations that would barely inconvenience drivers in Detroit, Chicago or Boise can bring travel to a screeching halt in cites from Atlanta to El Paso.

With winter coming, experts say you should consider these things when preparing for driving:

Winter tires really do make you safer

Formerly called snow tires, winter tires are perhaps the most significant thing you can do for greater winter safety and mobility, but correspondingly the most expensive.

 

The thinnest layer of ice or snow can impair your ability to steer, drive and perhaps most important, stop. Winter tires give you more control.

If you live somewhere the temperature is regularly below 40 degrees F, you're a candidate.

Winter tires have tread patterns that help on ice and snow, but the more important difference is in materials that maintain grip in cold temperatures.

"Winter tires help keep you safe by providing better control for emergency maneuvers or even day-to-day incidents, shorter stopping distances," said T.J. Campbell, tire information manager at online retailer Tire Rack. "More traction to get up an icy incline or power through snow and slush, and even additional grip on cold, wet roads. All your vehicle's safety systems — all-wheel drive, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, lane departure and braking assist — they all work better when the tires have improved traction."

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