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Winter driving tips

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Winter driving tips
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As the snow is starting to fly, it's time to remember how to drive in wet and icy conditions. Police say every year accidents increase exponentially during the first snow because people forget. As our Katie Gibas reports, it's an especially tough challenge for new drivers.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Jeffrey Baird has been teaching driving for 22 years. And one of the biggest challenges for both seasoned and new drivers is wintry conditions.

"Winter driving is not a game. It is serious. All driving is serious, but winter driving is the utmost. One mistake and you're in the ditch and hopefully that's all that's happened," said Jeffrey Baird, the Able 2 Driving School President.

Police say every year at the first snow, they see a huge jump in accidents. They say before heading out on the road, first make sure the car is ready for wintry conditions. Check the tire pressure and treads. Experts recommend inserting a penny upside down into the tread. If you can see Lincoln's head, it's time to get new tires.

"Maybe even think about winter tires in this area. But even the best tires in the world aren't going to make up for driver error," said Michael Johnson, a Sr. Team Leader at Branch's Driving School.

That's why both new and seasoned drivers should get comfortable with snowy conditions in a controlled environment, like a parking lot.

"Travel at a slow speed and jam on your brakes and see how far your car actually slides," said Syracuse Police Captain Shannon Trice.

Baird added, "You have to get your child into real world experiences to see how fragile your car can be."

After practicing in a controlled area, it's time to hit the road. Experts say the most important thing is to pay attention.

"If the road looks kind of wet, look at the tires of the car ahead of you, and see if the back tires are throwing up slush or water, then you know that the road is pretty much wet. If those tires no longer throw up slush and water it's frozen," said Baird.

If you're a parent teaching your child how to drive, experts say the best thing you can do is lead by example. Slow down, increase following distances and leave yourself plenty of time to get to your destination. But if you do get into a slippery situation, stay calm.

"Always steer the car in the direction you want it to go. If you turn away from the spin, then you're going to lose control of your vehicle," said Johnson.

Baird added, "If a car starts to skid, or get loose on a bridge or whatever, the first thing I do is I come off the gas of course and put it in neutral and you can maintain a lot better steering control."

All tips that drivers need to practice before trying them out on the open road.

For more winter driving tips:

DOT winter driving tips

AAA Winter Driving Tips

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