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November 17. 2012 11:32PM

DOT advice: Don't rush into trouble in winter driving

The website for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation features user-friendly tools to help minimize the frustrations of winter driving. Look for the logo "Winter Driving in New Hampshire" on www.nhdot.com.

To start, you can look at a statewide map that shows how often certain types of roads are plowed when snow is falling at a given rate, a policy that's based on traffic volume.

You can also sign up for Twitter alerts to your cellphone for when there's an accident or other highway problems on your commuting route.

And you can check traffic cameras positioned on major roadways to see whether there's traffic congestion, snow-covered roads or a crash.

These tools can make the roads safer for everyone, according to Sgt. Matthew Shapiro of New Hampshire State Police operations.

"The vast majority of winter storm accidents are caused by driving too fast for the conditions present, so the Number 1 thing somebody can do is plan ahead," he said. "The more you plan ahead, the less likely you are to drive too fast, to drive in too close proximity to the car ahead of you, or to be passing plows when you shouldn't be."

The website also features safe driving tips for wintry conditions. Here's a sampling:

-- Slow down in wet, snowy, or icy conditions; or when visibility is poor; or when conditions are changing or unpredictable.

-- Slow down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady spots. All of these are places where conditions can be right for the formation of "black" ice - a thin, hard-to-see coating of clear ice on paved surfaces.

-- Allow additional space between vehicles because winter road conditions require longer stopping distances.

-- Avoid using cruise control.

-- If you have anti-lock brakes, press the pedal down firmly and hold it. If you don't, gently pump the pedal. Either way, give yourself plenty of room to stop.

-- Four-wheel drive might get you going faster, but it won't help you stop sooner.

-- Accelerate gradually, avoid abrupt steering maneuvers and merge slowly to keep your vehicle from sliding.

-- Don't crowd snowplows. The front plow extends several feet in front of the truck and may cross the center line and shoulders during plowing.

-- If you find yourself behind a plow, stay behind it or use caution when passing. Plows can throw up a cloud of snow that can cut visibility to zero.

-- A snowplow operator's field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they may not see you.

-- Before leaving home, find out about driving conditions. Make sure you've cleared snow from your vehicle's windows and lights, including brake lights and turn signals. And give yourself extra time to reach your destination safely.

-- Wear your seat belt; 71 percent of all traffic fatalities in New Hampshire in the past 10 years involved people who were not wearing seat belts.


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