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No need to spin your wheels when snow flies

Even though last winter was long and snowy, you've probably forgotten how to drive in the white stuff.

A refresher:

• Slow down. Just because the speed limit is 65—or even 35—you don't have to go that fast. Give yourself extra time to reach your destination.

• Accelerate slowly. Punching the gas pedal only spins your wheels.

• Traction control helps as it applies the brakes to the spinning wheel(s), allowing those with the most traction to get you going. Still, try to feather the throttle.

• Brake gently and early. Anticipate your stops and squeeze the brakes as though there is a banana between your foot and the pedal. Lock your wheels and lose control.

• If your wheels do lock up, gently ease up on the brakes until they start rolling again. Use only enough pressure to keep brakes from locking. This "threshold braking" is the fastest way to stop the car.

• If you can't master threshold braking, try pumping your brakes rapidly them unless, of course, you have anti-lock brakes. Then mash 'em.

• Don't expect miracles from ABS. It will not necessarily stop your vehicle in a shorter distance. Rather, it allows you to maintain directional control to steer away from a potential crash.

• All-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive has no effect on braking so don't drive faster than you can stop.

• Take curves and corners carefully. If the wheels lose traction, the vehicle will drift, and it's almost impossible to recover from that.

• If the rear of the car begins to swing out ("fishtail"), turn the steering wheel in the same direction. In other words, if the rear starts fishtailing to the right, turn the wheels to the right. Be prepared for the car to fishtail back the other way. You may have to correct several times to regain control.

• Stability control doesn't work as well on ice or snow.

• If you get stuck in the snow, don't spin your wheels. While keeping your front wheels pointed straight ahead, gently rock the car back and forth (between drive and reverse).

• Don't follow the plow or salt truck too closely. It may stop suddenly and, besides, distance keeps the flying salt from damaging your paint. Likewise, do not pass a plow unless you have plenty of visibility and room.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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