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Control is key to winter driving


12/07/05, Edmonton... Winter is here and drivers need to be prepared for a variety of weather and road conditions. Snow, freezing rain, black ice, poor visibility and cold temperatures make for hazardous driving. Motorists are more likely to stay safe on Alberta’s roads if they learn and practise defensive driving skills.

Being prepared
* Leave early to allow more time to get to your destination.
* Clear all snow and ice off windows, side mirrors, headlights, tail lights and licence plate.
* Make sure windshield wipers move freely.
* Buckle up and adjust head restraints. The centre of a person’s head restraint should be even with the top of his or her ears.
* Keep more than half a tank of fuel in the vehicle. The extra volume can help reduce moisture problems in the fuel system and adds extra weight, which may help with traction in rear-wheel drive vehicles.
* Plan the safest most direct route to the destination.

Driving down the road
* Keep the vehicle’s headlights on while driving - don’t rely only on daytime running lights. Low beams are more effective than high beams in fog or heavy snow conditions.
* Signal well in advance of turning to provide other drivers time to react.
* Regularly check the rearview and side mirrors, and always shoulder check before changing lanes.
* Allow at least three times the normal following distance to stop on a wet or slick surface.
* Slow down when conditions aren’t ideal. The posted speed limit is set for ideal road conditions.
* Never use cruise control in slippery conditions.
* Drive outside the previous tire tracks on snowy roads for some extra traction.
* Avoid sudden moves by anticipating turns or lane changes. Abrupt changes in direction or slamming on the brakes could cause the vehicle to spin out of control.

Staying in control
* Know the vehicle’s braking system and how it reacts on ice. Always be gentle with braking pressure on slick roads.
* Avoid braking on curves if possible. Slow in advance of curves, then drive through them at a safe, steady speed.
* Accelerate slightly when approaching a hill and then maintain a steady speed going up.
* Gear down in advance of uphill climbs and downhill grades. This can help avoid brake wear and chances of sliding. Be careful of abrupt downshifting, however, as it can upset a vehicle’s balance and cause a skid to occur, particularly when turning.
* If the vehicle does not have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), release pressure on the brake pedal if the vehicle begins to skid and steer in the direction you want to go. When the wheels regain their grip, brake firmly and smoothly.
* Keep firm pressure on the brake pedal if the vehicle has ABS brakes.
* If you are driving a vehicle with rear-wheel drive and the vehicle begins to skid, steer just enough in the opposite direction in order to prevent a counter skid.

Winter maintenance
* Approximately 550 snowplows and more than 700 snowplow operators are dedicated to keeping Alberta’s 32,000 kilometres of highways clear and open to traffic.
* Snowplows are deployed when three or more centimetres of snow have fallen or when highways are icy.
* Despite the best efforts of highway maintenance personnel and equipment, sometimes Mother Nature gets the upper hand. In these extreme winter conditions, travel only if necessary.
* When following snowplow trucks, stay back at least 30 metres. They will let you pass every five to eight kilometres or when it is safe to do so. Attempting to pass a snowplow is a dangerous move due to reduced visibility from spraying snow and flying debris from snowplow blades.

When it comes to staying safe on Alberta’s roads, caution and smart thinking are a driver’s best lines of defense.


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