Safety tips: Winter driving is here again

Poor driving conditions on eastbound I-196 near Grandville. (Nov. 11, 2014)

ALLENDALE, Mich. (WOOD) — It didn’t take long for the crashes and slide-offs to happen once the snow started flying Thursday.

Near Plainwell, at least 20 vehicles wrecked in US-131 when the snow was coming down and visibility was poor. One person was hurt. And near Schoolcraft, a woman was killed in a chain-reaction crash on slippery roads.

The first blast of wintry weather was a reminder to put good snow- and ice-driving habits back into practice.

Every year, when the first serious snowfall causes crashes, people remark that their fellow Michiganders seem to have forgotten how to drive. The snarky comment may have truth behind it. Psychologists told 24 Hour News 8 that we may lose muscle memory during the summer and need a little practice to redevelop it.

So it’s good to have a reminder of three simple tips to keep safe:

“Give yourself enough time, give yourself enough space and look three times further down the road then you usually do,” Dave Muma of Century Driving School advised.

It’s also important to clear of and turn on your car’s headlights, even in the middle of the day. They make it much easier for other drivers to see you, particularly when visibility is poor.

It’s also worth checking your tires. Experts agree they are the single most important safety item on our car.

Checking to see if they’re too worn down is simple. The bare minimum for your treads should be 2/32nds of an inch, which you can measure with a penny. Tire treads should at least come up to the imprint of Abraham Lincoln’s head. Tom Toft of Heritage Auto recommended even more than that. He said treads should come up to the imprint of George Washington’s head on a quarter.

If you find you do need new tires, you can do a little research to save a few bucks.

“There are places available like Consumer Reports where you can look up tire specifications and wear specifications,” Toft said. “Talk to a tire expert, talk to people who deal in tires all the time and can make a recommendations on the type of vehicle that you have and the type of driving that you do.”

Workers at several tire shops told 24 Hour News 8 that the first snowfall of the season marks their busiest day. They also said that after last winter, people are less willing to go through this one on old tires.

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