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Driving Safely on Icy Roads

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- As many learned today, driving on an icy road can be a scary proposition. However, it doesn't have to be.

Take it from 14 year old Ben Potter, who worked on driving in nasty conditions with Stacia Bissel and Right Way Driver's Education.

"If you have to get somewhere it's better to get there late than to crash your car, Potter said.

We took the wheel over from Ben after a few minutes and took away a few lessons of our own - three things in particular.

Lesson number one: Be aware of how and when you brake. Bissel says don't wait until the last minute.

The proper stopping distance is when you can see the bottom of the back two tires.

She says if the car starts to slide don't panic.

You are not supposed to lift your foot and continue pumping the break, Bissel said.

Lesson number two - don't over-correct. Bissel says if you find yourself losing control, keep calm until you gradually regain that control.

Any driving situation where you make a haste decision and do a quick correction is going to cause you to be in a more dangerous situation.

Lesson number three - the shoulder of the interstate can be your friend if you start to lose control.

The rumble strips on the side of the highway, you can pull those two tires on the right hand side over to that rumble strip and you can ride that road with more traction.

In addition to those tips, here are several from AAA:
  •  Avoid driving while youre fatigued. Getting the proper amount of rest before taking on winter weather tasks reduces driving risks.
  •  Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  •  Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  •  Never mix radial tires with other tire types.
  •  Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  •  If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy and snowy weather.
  •  Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  •  Always look and steer where you want to go.
  •  Use your seat belt every time you get into your vehicle.
Tips for long-distance winter trips:
  • Watch weather reports prior to a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Delay trips when especially bad weather is expected. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
  •  Always make sure your vehicle is in peak operating condition by having it inspected by a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility.
  •  Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.
  •  Pack a cellular telephone with your local AAAs telephone number, plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and any needed medication in your vehicle.
  •  If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Dont try to walk in a severe storm. Its easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
  •  Dont over exert yourself if you try to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
  •  Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  •  Make sure the exhaust pipe isnt clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
  •  Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  •  If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.
Tips for driving in the snow:
  •  Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Dont try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  •  Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  •  The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  •  Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  •  Dont stop if you can avoid it. Theres a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
  •  Dont power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
  •  Dont stop going up a hill. Theres nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  •  Stay home. If you really dont have to go out, dont. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Dont tempt fate: If you dont have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
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