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Our View: Drive carefully and smart during the holidays

The first couple of weeks of December gave everyone a crash -- no pun intended -- course on winter driving skills. Traffic crawled. Tempers flared. Crashes occurred. As we enter Christmas and New Year’s celebrations, it might be a good time to brush up on your winter driving skills.

Let’s face it, we are in for several months of wintry driving conditions. A big part of safe winter driving is to go slow. Know the conditions and adjust driving habits accordingly.

When ice is at or near the freezing mark, a thin film of water can form on top. An icy road with water on top, which is what you are likely to encounter in late fall and early winter, is about as slippery as it can get.

Brush up on winter driving know-how. When pavements and air temperatures are colder later in the winter, the ice is typically drier and tires grip it much better.

Top tips for safe winter driving:

--Go slow.

--Know the conditions.

--Leave room for stopping.

--Focus on driving.

--Check condition and correct air pressure of tires.

--Buckle up.

--Be patient.

Motorists are also advised to “cruise without the cruise” in wintry conditions and when the pavement is slippery. When motorists skid on a sudden slippery spot, they are advised to take their foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction of the skid. But if they are using cruise control, the car accelerates, and the vehicle can end up in the ditch or spinning out of control.

It seems like, over the summer, drivers forget their good winter driving habits. Drivers should build on good habits, like driving for the conditions. People shouldn’t drive 55 or 65 miles an hour on ice or snow, even if they’re in a vehicle with all-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive may get you going easier, but it won’t help you stop any faster or maintain control better once you lose traction. Remember four-wheel drive does not mean four-wheel stop.

Good winter drivers are prepared -- they have emergency kits in their cars, and they know to check the WISDOT’s web site at or call (866) 511-WISC (9472) for the latest driving conditions. If you travel to Minnesota, you may want to check the MNDOT website at http://511mn.orgor call (800)657-3774 for the latest driving conditions.

The free Web and telephone services provide information about driving conditions on main highways. In Wisconsin the reports are updated at least four times a day or more frequently if conditions warrant.