Wednesday, November 23, 2005

CAR HELP CANADA: Stay safe in snowy conditions

Much of Ontario is expecting its first significant snowfall tonight and that means the usual flurry of needless accidents on our byways and highways.

Car Help Canada, a non-profit consumer association representing motorists right across the Great White North, offers the following tips for anyone who absolutely must drive during the coming snowstorm:

Go slow! Driving too fast for the conditions is the cause of most accidents. Brake, steer and accelerate slowly. A two second separation between vehicles in the normal rule of thumb in clear conditions, but in adverse weather you should remain at least four seconds behind the nearest car ahead;

Practice emergency braking in a vacant lot to get a feel for how your vehicle will behave in the snow. Vehicles with ABS brakes create a rapid pulsing sensation on the brake pedal, which can surprise drivers not accustomed to the system;

Stop, look and steer. In most impending collisions, brake first, look at where you want the vehicle to go and then steer in that direction. All too often drivers fixate on the object they are about to hit, causing the vehicle to follow the drivers eyes directly to the target they should be avoiding.

In a skid, take your foot off the accelerator, put the car in neutral, look where you want to go and steer in that direction;

Instead of focusing on the car immediately in front of you, look down the road for potential trouble ahead;

Consider taking an advanced driving program at a qualified skid school to hone your skills;

Watch out for ruts in the snow or icy patches hidden under snow. In slushy conditions, be sure to periodically check for snow build-up around the wheels which can affect steering;

Be extra cautious when approaching bridges, overpasses and shady areas which freeze sooner and can remain frozen longer;

If you do get stuck or stranded in your vehicle don’t panic. If there is no help nearby stay with your vehicle for safety and warmth and wait for help to arrive.

If you remain in your vehicle, run the engine sparingly and be careful of exhaust fumes. For fresh air, slightly open a window away from the wind;

Tires are the most important safety feature on your car and a good set of winter radials is your best defence against slippery streets, adding as much as 30% better traction over so-called "all season" tires;

Windshield wipers should be changed every spring and fall at the very least, but if your wipers are chattering or smearing have them replaced right away. Specially designed winter blades can offer better clearing in the cold by adding a Teflon coating and sealing the moving parts in a protective rubber housing which keeps ice and dirt out;

Top up your windshield fluid tank with a winter blend designed to resist freezing. Always carry an extra jug in the trunk in case you run out in the middle of a storm;

A good snow brush and ice scraper are essential tools, but be sure to use them properly. Clear the ice from all windows and mirrors, and remove all the snow from your car, especially the hood and roof;

For interview requests and more tips on safe winter driving, contact Car Help Canada at 416-760-3397 (office) or 416-988-7345 (cell).

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