As the first winter storm of the season hits large parts of the U.S., brush up on your winter driving know-how. Here are tips on how to stay out of trouble when road conditions become dangerous.
1. Slow down. If conditions get wet, cold, and especially if you can't see well, dial back your speed a few notches. You don't want to be surprised by slow or stopped traffic ahead.
2. Traction is everything. You control your vehicle with steering, braking, and acceleration. When it gets slick, go easy on the accelerator, but also on the steering wheel and brakes. If you jerk the wheel in wet snow, the car will likely continue to go in a straight line even if the tires are turned all the way to one side.
3. Keep on top of the weather. Most places in the continental U.S. experience cold snaps, at least occasionally, so ice and snow can become a problem faster than you think.
4. Assume that other drivers are amateurs. This really depends upon where you live, but unless you're in some tiny town where you're acquainted with everybody and know who can drive well and who can't, don't give other drivers the benefit of the doubt. If you see another car coming, give it as much space as possible.
5. Check your tires. Not everyone needs snow tires, which are soft, have tiny slits (called siping) to aid traction, and wear out quickly on warm, dry pavement. But your tires should be in good shape when winter begins.
6. Practice makes perfect. If you live somewhere where it snows a lot—or at all, really—it's not a bad idea to find a vacant parking lot in which to practice driving in the white stuff. Hit the gas, slam on the brakes, jerk the steering wheel. Slide the car and spin it around to see what those things feel like and how best to straighten out. This will help you learn your car's limits.
7. 4WD doesn't give you superpowers. On snow-covered mountain roads, it's always amazing to see how many of the vehicles that end up sliding off the road are equipped with four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. It gives a driver more control in some situations, but can also breed overconfidence.
8. Plan for the worst. This is particularly true if you live in a cold place. If your luck runs out, have a few supplies on hand in case you have to sit around in the car for hours on end waiting for help. These include snacks, water, blankets, winter clothes fit for the outdoors, and a folding shovel, at the very least.
For more info on ways to avoid winter driving wrecks, go to Yahoo! Auto.