Winter is here! Slow down

Residents of the Lake Almanor Basin and surrounding area, not having experienced normal winter conditions for the last couple of years, may have forgotten some of the driving skills that help keep everyone safe.

Winter is here and will hopefully, due to the past several years of drought, stay around for a while.

Driving conditions are once again marginal at best. According to the Susanville office of the California Highway Patrol, there have already been 89 accidents in Northern Plumas and Lassen counties since Nov. 1.

CHP driving tips

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In the interest of public safety, Officer K. Del Carlo of the CHP Susanville office provided some tips to make your travels safer.

First, make sure your car is properly winterized. Winterization includes antifreeze, working windshield wipers, tires in good condition and tire chains that fit your tires.

Second, be prepared: carry a flashlight with extra batteries, water, snacks and blankets. These items will come in handy if stranded for a lengthy period.

Carry a shovel, ice scraper, sand/kitty litter and gloves. These items will be useful to help get your car unstuck.

Third and most importantly, slow down. Allow plenty of time to get to your destination and pay attention to roadway conditions.

Even though roadways appear to be clear, black ice can still be present on the pavement, especially in shaded areas.

Refrain from using your cruise control and have a full fuel tank prior to departure.

It’s also wise to know what road conditions to expect on your planned route. For road conditions, call 800-427-ROAD (7623).

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Proper tires are key

According to the Tire Safety Group, another important aspect of winter driving is knowing how to keep your vehicle under control.

The key to this feat is called traction. Without traction, you are simply riding in a several ton object with a direction that is determined solely by physics.

Traction results from the points of contact between the vehicle’s tires and the road surface. Rubber tires produce traction through fiction when the rubber makes contact with hard, paved surfaces.

When snow or ice covers the roadway, traction can no longer be taken for granted. If tires are prevented from making contact with pavement, the physics change.

Contact between rubber and ice crystals produces little to no friction and therefore little to no traction.

Snow tires (or even all-season radials) can be more adequate in new or “powdery” snow because the rubber is harder than snow and the aggressive tread may be capable of penetrating the surface.

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On hard-packed snow or ice, conventional snow tires give little useable traction due to their lack of penetration through to the pavement. In this case, “studded” snow tires will work noticeably better than tires without studs.

But what about big tires with aggressive treads?

According to Sean Phillips, About.com’s tire and wheel expert and operations manager of a major New England wheel and tire shop, large over-sized tires can work well in dirt and muddy conditions, but are the worst-case scenario for icy winter road conditions.

As a skier and Colorado native, Phillips has a personal interest in snow tires and winter driving.

Big rims and tires may “look good,” but are not designed for use on ice or snow. He explained that a smaller, narrower tire has better traction and performance in snow or ice.

This is both because the smaller tire cuts through snow more effectively, and because the weight of the car is pressing on a more focused set of contact areas.

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Larger tires cannot penetrate through snow or ice so they create a flotation effect; the bigger the tire the more the flotation.

His best advice is to make sure to have the proper tire for driving conditions. Appearance should be the last priority when it comes to safety.

If you own winter only tires it is good to have them studded.

If your tires are used for all seasons then all-season radial tires equipped with well fitting winter traction products will produce the best traction on ice or snow-covered roads.

One added note is that once a driver applies the vehicle brakes and traction is broken, it can be extremely difficult to regain control. Slower speeds normally require less use of the brakes.

Prepare for changing weather

The CHP added the cautionary note that changing weather conditions can happen in an instant. This can cause roadway conditions to also change quickly.

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Adhering to the above tips could help make driving in poor roadway conditions much safer and less worrisome.

As always, the CHP asks you to put your seat belt on, put your cell phone down, slow down and never drink and drive.