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Fact vs Fiction: 7 Myths of Winter Driving Safety

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So you think you’re ready to take a road trip home for the holidays? The number of people choosing to head home via car this year has risen to 90 percent, a 0.6 percent increase from last year, according to AAA’s recent travel study. You may think you are set for your holiday road trip, but it never hurts to be prepared. Darra Stone shares a few holiday safety tips that can mean the difference between a safe arrival or a nightmare journey.

Myth: Hit the road and go!
Reality: Smart travelers get their car a full tune-up and inspection before traveling, especially in the winter.

Take it from someone who got stuck in a small town in Utah waiting days for a part to arrive: It’s better to get the check-up before something goes wrong. Be safe rather than sorry and get everything looked at by a professional before you leave. Your car may be prepared for current surroundings, but keep in mind the road ahead. Details like remembering traveling from a warm to cold climate degrades tire pressure to filling up the antifreeze can make or break a road trip.

Myth: Gas mileage for cars is consistent anytime of year.
Reality: Gas mileage decreases with cold weather.

Avoid getting stuck 60 miles from the next affordable gas station and plan before you leave. Keep an eye on how much gas your car is guzzling as the temperature starts to drop. Mapping out gas stations or using apps like GasBuddy can also save you from getting stuck in the cold.

Myth: Not everyone needs an emergency kit in your car.
Reality: Winter storms occur quickly and often unpredictably.

Again, take it from someone that has been stuck in winter snowstorms, the roads are almost always worse than they appear. Don’t get stuck unprepared. Pack a good emergency road kit. Include clean water, blankets, granola bars, car jumper cables, a map (in case your GPS capabilities fails you), a flashlight with spare batteries, and a snow/ice remover.

Myth: A car with front-wheel drive is enough on icy or snow covered roads.
Reality: Driving on winter roads is treacherous and often requires increased tire traction.

If you’re traveling through extremely harsh weather, make sure you have tire chains available and know how and when to put them on. Practice putting on tire chains before you leave for your trip. Unless you’re driving a race car, your tires already have traction. So if signs say, “traction required,” your tires should be fine (of course get this checked before you leave), you only need chains when signs say, “chains required.” Also bear in mind that some places outlaw tire-chains because of the road damage they cause. Check local laws before you outfit your tires.

Myth: When you hit an icy patch steer away from it to regain control.
Reality: You want to steer into the skid to resume control.

Attempting to steer directly out of a skid will cause your car to fishtail. Avoid making a bad situation worse by remaining calm and steering into the skid and then slowly redirecting your car onto the right path.

Myth: Hit your breaks to stop your car on icy roads.
Reality: Holding your breaks will cause them to lock and you will continue to slide.

It’s easy to panic and slam on the breaks if you hit a patch of ice. The car’s momentum will keep it sliding on the ice. To best stop your car from moving on ice, calmly and repeatedly tap your breaks.

Myth: Flip on your brights to light the way.
Reality: Turning on your brights in the snow or fog intensifies the glare.

Most people want to turn on their brights to help visibility during a storm. But, turning on your brights in snow or fog intensifies the glare and actually makes it harder to see. You should keep your low beams on and try to find a safe place to pull over until the storm lessens.

Take time this holiday season to practice safe travel. You may think getting to your holiday destination as quickly as possible is your number one goal, but you want to get there safely. Follow these simple guides for a safer trip for you and your fellow road travelers.

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By Darra Stone for