showers bring pretty flowers and dented fenders.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, nearly
one million vehicle accidents a year occur in wet weather. Many of these rainy-day wrecks are caused by motorists failing
to appreciate the vast difference between driving in wet and dry conditions, says Peter Cunningham, a championship winning
race car driver who tours the U.S. for Firestone, teaching driving skills and discussing the importance of proper tires.
"To drive safely on wet pavement, you have to recognize the demands that you, your
vehicle and your tires face," Cunningham says. "It's very different than driving on dry pavement, but many motorists fail
to change techniques and attention. That's when many wet weather accidents occur."
Cunningham's wet weather driving tips include:
Slow down. As your speed decreases, the tire
footprint (the amount of the tire's tread contacting the road surface) increases, providing better traction. You also reduce
the risk of hydroplaning should you run into deeper water puddled on the road.
Maintain a safe distance. Even with a good wet
weather tire, be prepared for longer stopping distances on wet pavement. Since other cars may not have proper tires for wet
weather driving, be extra alert at stop signs and red lights.
Choose tires carefully. Too many drivers buy
a tire based on initial price or appearance. For optimum performance in the rain, select a tire with tread design and rubber
compounds that provide enhanced wet weather driving capabilities, such as the new Firestone FT70(c) with its patented UNI-T
technologies. One of the newest and best tires available for wet weather conditions, the Firestone FT70(c) features the patented
WeatherGrip Tread Compound which enhances wet performance and also optimizes wear resistance for longer tread life. In addition,
the tire's patented tread design combines wide straight grooves and deep rib notches to deliver impressive rain and snow performance.
Properly maintain your tires. No tire can provide
good wet traction once the tread is worn below 2/32nd's of an inch(0.16cm) tread depth. Check your tires regularly and replace
them at the proper time. Also, maintain the proper air pressure in your tires; check your vehicle manufacturer handbook or
the door jamb for the proper air pressure for your particular vehicle and tires.
Go smoothly. When braking, accelerating or turning,
avoid jerky, abrupt movements.
Avoid hydroplaning. If you feel your vehicle
starting to hydroplane (riding on the surface of the water), take your foot off the accelerator -- don't hit your brakes.
If you have a manual transmission, push in the clutch and let the vehicle slow down until control is regained.
Plan your braking. If you are entering a curve
slow down and brake gently before you start to turn.
Turn on your lights. In most states it's required
by law. In may not help you see, but it will help other drivers see you.
Check your wipers. Install new wiper blades at
least once a year to ensure good vision.
Cunningham says his tips can be shortened to "T & T."
"Think and Tires," he says. "Think about your driving and install good tires for
wet weather. Once you've installed the tires, keep them inflated properly and replace them when tread-wear indicator bars
show. Don't be shy about asking information from your tire dealer.
Your safety -- and mine -- could depend
on your tires and how you think."
worked with IMSA and SCCA championship winning race car driver Peter Cunningham (also a three-time national ice driving champion),
to develop these tips for safe winter driving.
During winter months, keep abreast of weather
reports in your area. If snow or ice is predicted, make plans to leave early or arrive later. An alarm clock set to an earlier
time can be a good friend in helping you avoid difficulties.
If you can move a night trip to daylight hours,
do so. Not only is visibility better, but if your vehicle is stalled, you are more likely to receive prompt assistance during
your vehicle for winter driving; use this checklist as a guideline:
1. Check windshield wiper blades to make sure they work properly. In some areas, snow blades are an effective alternative
to conventional wiper blades.
2. Have your mechanic test the anti-freeze/coolant to provide the
correct level of protection required in your driving area.
3. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Underinflation can
reduce the gripping action of tires because the tread will not meet the road surface as it was designed to do. Overinflation
has the same effect.
4. If you live in areas where snow and ice are certainties of winter
driving, don't depend on all-season tires. Instead, install snow tires. Snow tires are made of softer components and have
a unique tread design that provide better traction and road-gripping abilities.
5. Keep your gas tank at least half-full. The extra volume can
help reduce moisture problems within your fuel system. It also adds helpful weight to your vehicle.
6. In rear-wheel drive
vehicles, extra weight in the trunk or truck bed may be helpful. Use care-- unsecured weight can shift while you are moving
or if you have to stop suddenly. Bags of sand can provide weight and, if sprinkled on the ice, sand helps provide traction.
Before you leave your driveway, scrape the ice and snow
from every window and the exterior rear view mirrors, not just a small patch on the windshield. Don't forget to remove snow
from headlights and brake lights.
8. Try to remove ice and snow from your shoes before getting in your vehicle. As they
melt, they create moisture build-up, causing windows to fog on the inside. You can reduce this fogging by turning the air
recirculation switch to the OFF position. This brings in drier, fresh air. You can also run your air conditioner which serves
as a dehumidifier for a few minutes.
9. You and your passengers should all use safety belts, both lap and shoulder straps.
Pull them snug to ensure they work properly.
10. Adjust head rests. Rear-end collisions are common in winter driving and a properly-adjusted
head rest can prevent or reduce neck injuries.
11. Before you shift into gear, plan the best route to your destination. Avoid hills,
high congestion areas and bridges if possible.
Before you leave your driveway, scrape the ice
and snow from every window and the exterior rear view mirrors, not just a small patch on the windshield. Don't forget to remove
snow from headlights and brake lights.
Try to remove ice and snow from your shoes before
getting in your vehicle. As they melt, they create moisture build-up, causing windows to fog on the inside. You can reduce
this fogging by turning the air recirculation switch to the OFF position. This brings in drier, fresh air. You can also run
your air conditioner which serves as a dehumidifier for a few minutes.
You and your passengers should all use safety belts, both lap and
shoulder straps. Pull them snug to ensure they work properly.
Adjust head rests. Rear-end collisions are common
in winter driving and a properly-adjusted head rest can prevent or reduce neck injuries.
Before you shift into gear, plan the best route
to your destination. Avoid hills, high congestion areas and bridges if possible.
Although your radio can provide helpful traffic
information, it can also be a distraction for some drivers. Since driving is more a mental skill than a physical skill, you
may want to keep it turned off.
Don't use a cellular phone when driving on ice
or snow. Even if you have a hands-free model, you need to concentrate on driving, not on a telephone conversation.
Drive slowly and remember that posted speed limits
identify the maximum speed allowed when weather conditions are ideal. Law enforcement agencies can write citations to motorists
driving the posted speed limit if weather conditions warrant a slower speed.
Be more alert to the actions of other drivers.
Anticipate cars coming from side streets and put extra distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. If someone
is too close behind you, don't speed up; slow down or let them go around you.
To make sure other drivers see you, always drive
with your lights on. At night, in fog and heavy snow conditions, low beams may be more effective than high beams.
Keep a light touch on the brakes. Even with anti-lock
braking systems (sometimes called ABS), you should apply light pressure to avoid locking the brakes and causing a skid. Pumping
the brake pedal should be smooth action, going from light to firm in a gradual move. Tip toe to slow is a good motto for winter
Keep both hands on the wheel and keep the wheel
pointed where you want your car to go. While it may sound overly simple, it could help you in a skid.
- While manual transmissions
may provide greater control to assist with braking, be careful when using downshifting as a way to slow the vehicle. Gear
changes, particularly abrupt ones, can upset a vehicle's balance and cause a skid to occur, especially in turns.
- Keep your vehicle stocked
with simple emergency equipment in case you do get stalled or have an accident. Consider keeping these items in your vehicle:
A blanket or
A candle with matches
Beverages (never alcohol)
C. B. radio, cellular phone
A small shovel
A windshield scraping device
A tow rope
A bag of sand or cat litter
If you do have trouble, run the engine only briefly to run the heater, not continuously.
Carbon monoxide can accumulate more easily in a non-moving vehicle.
Severe engine damage may also occur if the motor runs for long periods
when the vehicle is not in motion. Warming up a car prior to travel is a common practice, but most engines really don't need
more than a minute at most to circulate oil to all internal parts. Check your vehicle's owner's manual for information about