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FACT or MYTH: Using cruise control while driving in wintry conditions can be hazardous.

March 2017

FACT! Using cruise control can cause your car to accelerate when it doesn't need to, such as when you hydroplane or skid, and can cause deadly accidents.

Old man winter is upon us, and he has brought some potentially hazardous driving conditions with him. We have compiled some winter weather driving tips to help keep you and your family safe.

Tip #1: Preparation
Before you get into your vehicle to begin driving in wintry weather, your safety preparedness should begin:

  • Ensure your headlights are working
  • Check your tire tread to make sure your tires are in good shape, and that they are properly inflated
  • Test your battery (batteries that need to be replaced tend to die in the cold weather)
  • Check your car's antifreeze and windshield washer fluid levels
  • Clean your car's windshield
  • Arm your car with sunglasses, a cell phone charger, flashlight, batteries, a first aid kit, warm clothes, a blanket, candles, water, and even snacks

Tip #2: Slow Down
It is very easy to fall in the habit of getting in a hurry, even when you know driving conditions are less than ideal. Driving too fast is the main cause of car accidents during winter weather, so SLOW DOWN! Even having a four-wheel-drive car or an SUV does not exempt you from this tip. Any vehicle you drive is more dangerous if you drive it too fast in wintry weather.

  • Do not accelerate or brake too quickly
  • Do not make unnecessary lane changes
  • Do not rely on your four-wheel-drive to steer or safely stop on a slippery road surface. Four-wheel-drive can help your vehicle get going (slowly, because you shouldn't accelerate quickly), but not to slow down or stop.
  • Be patient. It is better to arrive at your destination late than injured or worse!

Tip #3: Back Off the Car in Front of You
Tailgating is extremely dangerous at any time, but especially during hazardous driving conditions. Even if you think the person in front of you is going too slow, and you want to get close to them to encourage them to move over - don't! This far too often leads to accidents. Again, be patient.

  • The amount of time it takes your vehicle to stop in the snow or ice is much longer because of the reduction in traction, even if the road is only lightly covered.
  • If you accidentally tap the car in front of you, it is likely your car or the other one might be pushed into the path of other oncoming vehicles, causing more serious injuries.
  • Having to get out of your vehicle in the middle of or on the side of a snow- or ice-covered road can be extremely dangerous, especially as other vehicles pass.

Tip #4: Do Not Use Cruise Control
For many of us, driving with our cruise control on is a habit. But, it is a habit you do not want to have while road conditions are less than ideal.

  • Make a conscious effort to not use cruise control during wintry road conditions.
  • If you do use cruise control and your car hydroplanes or skids, your car will continue to try to maintain a constant speed, causing acceleration and the spinning of your wheels. Using cruise control can cause you to easily lose control of your vehicle.

Tip #5: Pull Over or Stay Home.
It is okay, and even preferable, to make the decision to either pull over and call for help or to avoid leaving home at all while the weather has caused bad road conditions.

  • If your trip is non-essential or can be postponed, stay home.
  • If you do have to drive but become uncomfortable about road conditions while you are driving, it is okay to pull over. Stay put and call for help (and be grateful you were prepared - see tip #1!)
  • If you are fatigued at all, do not drive! Driving while sleepy during wintry weather can be deadly.
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