ETC
We're a few days away from the official start of winter, but it feels like winter's already here, with recent snow in south Texas and Winter Storm Chloe hitting the Great Lakes region, causing problems for air travelers and those on the ground. On Monday, a Manitowoc, Wisconsin, man drove into Lake Michigan after losing control due to "weather and road conditions." He had only minor injuries, but they still haven't recovered his car, shown above.

So it's time for a reminder to adjust our driving habits to match conditions:

Buckle up: A no-brainer! It's also important to stay buckled if you end up on the side of the road, in case another driver loses control and hits you.

Check your fluids: Antifreeze and washer fluid (not to mention gas) should be topped off. You also can prepare for the worst by keeping emergency provisions in the trunk: flashlight (with fresh batteries), warm clothes, first aid kit, flare, and a backup cellphone charger.

Check your wipers: If they're not fresh, invest in a new set.

Mount winter tires: You'll have better traction. More important, they will reduce your stopping distance.

Adjust your tire pressure: When snow is present, it may be wise to let a bit of air out from the max PSI as the increased surface area of your tread (you still have tread, right?) will help with traction.

Clear your car: Remove all snow from your windshield, headlights and taillights. Don't forget the roof!

Lock your doors: That safety cage around you will protect you better if your doors don't pop open in an accident.

Warm up your car: Allowing the car a couple of minutes to get up to operating temperature is good for the engine under extreme conditions, helps clear ice from the windows, and warms up the cabin for you.

Turn on your lights: A modern phenomenon is people driving around with daytime running lights at night, which means their taillights are not illuminated. It only makes sense to help others see you when the weather is poor by consciously turning on your headlights. A good rule, any time of year, is turn on your headlights whenever you need to use windshield wipers.

Turn off your high beams: Your brights certainly shouldn't be used in fog, plus you also should be considerate when it's snowing and others are in the vicinity.

Slow down: AWD does not make you invincible. And, regardless of what you drive, most states require driving under the speed limit in inclement weather.

Easy does it: Accelerate slowly, brake gently, and try not to do much of either while turning. Old-timers, don't forget anti-lock brakes mean you don't have to pump them. Cars today can stop on a dime, but not when it's wet or icy. Increase your following distance. And remember that AWD can give you a false sense of security, making you think road conditions are better than they are. But when it comes time to slow down or stop, an AWD vehicle does not brake any better than anything else.

Be mindful of road conditions: Bridges and overpasses can get slick before other parts of roadways. Be aware of parts of the road that are in shadow. Slow down before you reach questionable pavement, not once you're on it.

Don't stop if you can avoid it: And don't power up hills, but don't stop on them either.

Don't use cruise control: Driving alertly, not passively, is called for in the snow, plus cruise control will contribute to an accident if you hydroplane, skid or encounter black ice.

Always use your turn signals: Does this really need to be said?

Leave your phone alone: Ditto!

Check your mirrors: Know what's around you, in case you find yourself in a skid. Also don't forget to check your blind spot when changing lanes.

When faced with a skid: The natural reaction is to brake. Don't do that. Keep your feet off the pedals and steer into the skid until the car slows enough for you to regain control. If your car is front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, gently pressing the accelerator can help straighten you out.

Use a lower gear: If going down a hill in poor weather, shifting to a lower gear will help you control your speed thanks to engine-braking.

Use your hazards: If you are in distress. Your hazard lights alert others to proceed cautiously around you.

Smartest tip of all: Stay home. Wait for the plows, and don't go out unless you absolutely have to.

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