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AAA Chicago Offers Tips for Driving on Ice and Snow

AURORA, Ill., Jan. 5, 2005 -- AAA Chicago offers the following driving tips to motorists traveling on snow covered or icy roads:

Know your vehicle and how it operates. Not all cars respond the same to slippery roads. Knowing how to handle your vehicle and how it responds in various weather conditions is important. You should page through your vehicle's owner's manual, familiarizing yourself with your vehicle's braking system and tire traction.

Familiarize yourself with your vehicle's braking system. Your owner's manual will provide information about your braking system. Find out which type of brakes your vehicle uses and then follow the safety steps below:

   -- Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) offer significant advantages on slick
      roads, if used correctly.  To operate ABS effectively, motorists
      should apply steady pressure to the brake pedal during the entire
      stop.  ABS will automatically pump the brakes, if necessary, to keep
      the wheels from locking.  Never manually pump ABS brakes yourself.
      Apply only steady pressure continuously until you come to a complete
      stop.
   -- If you don't have ABS, you should gently apply pumping pressure to
      your brakes during slippery conditions.  Do not apply steady pressure
      to your brakes.  Standing on your brakes will only cause wheel lock,
      and may result in your car spinning out of control.

Always maintain a good distance from vehicles in front of you. The most important thing to remember when driving on slick roads is that you must travel, steer and brake more slowly than usual. The distance needed to stop on ice is twice as long as that you would need to brake under normal driving circumstances. This means you should keep at least a three-car distance from the vehicle directly in front of you.

Recognize Danger Zones. Intersections -- Slow down before reaching an intersection. Scan all directions for cars and pedestrians. If you're having trouble, they most likely are too. After a stop, press the accelerator slowly to get moving again. If you have manual transmission, try starting in second gear to avoid wheel spin.

Hills -- When approaching an icy hill pick a path that will allow the most traction. Head for unpacked snow or powder where you'll get a better grip. Build speed gradually before reaching the hill.

Curves -- Reduce speed before entering a curve. Any sudden acceleration or deceleration while turning may cause a skid. Controlled speed, smooth steering and braking will help prevent wheels from skidding on a turn. If wheels lose their grip, gradually release pressure from pedal and steer in the direction you want to travel.

Getting out of a sticky situation. The simplest thing to remember when extricating a vehicle from snow and ice is to use finesse rather than power. Hard acceleration is likely to worsen the situation by causing the tires to dig the car deeper into the snow. AAA Chicago recommends first clearing snow away from the tires. To improve traction, spread sand, cat litter or some kind of abrasive material around the tires containing power. Then, shift the car into low gear and slowly apply pressure to the accelerator.

When temperatures reach at or just above 32-degrees, a thin layer of water on the roads and highways can turn to slick ice, making for dangerous driving conditions.

Watch for black ice on the roads. Black ice commonly forms on roads that wind around lakes and rivers, in tunnels, on overpasses and in highly shaded, rural areas. Black ice is almost invisible to the naked eye. Be especially leery when driving your car into shaded areas, and slow your vehicle down during your approach.

Never brake while driving on ice. If you are approaching a patch of ice, brake during your approach. Applying pressure to your brakes while on ice will only throw you into a skid.

As always, AAA Chicago urges motorists to buckle up and use extra caution when driving in snowy and icy conditions.

AAA Chicago offers automotive, travel, insurance and financial services. It is part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the largest affiliation of AAA clubs in the Midwest, with 4.1 million members in eight states. ACG clubs belong to the national AAA federation, a not-for-profit organization, with more than 45 million members in the United States and Canada.