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driving it home

The snow flew briefly in Toronto and other parts of Canada on Halloween, an early, nasty reminder of what lies ahead. Another comes this weekend with daylight savings time.

With winter, the Michelin tire people have reminded me in a press release, come a long list of nasty surprises for unwary drivers.

"Black ice, loss of control, other drivers, and bad weather are the four major fears identified by Canadians in a recent Michelin survey," notes the release.

Normally, I'd be reluctant to give a free plug to a big company, but Michelin has put together a pretty good Web site to help drivers cope with winter driving. The French tire company calls it the Winter Driving Academy and you'll find it at

What sets this site apart is a big cache of video and animated demonstrations. The visual aids are user-friendly and generally entertaining. Moreover, professional race car driver and driving instructor Richard Spénard is centre stage offering simple, effective solutions in interactive video clips. I've taken a number of driving courses with Spenard and he's very good at explaining and demonstrating how to manage a car in all sorts of conditions.

I'd recommend the site. In the meantime, here are some winter driving tips supplied by Michelin. They are sounds ones, too.

Black ice: slow down, but do not slam on the brakes. Gently brake using the threshold technique.

"On very slippery roads, if you feel your vehicle is pulling at an angle towards a snow bank, shift into neutral gear. This manoeuvre will help you keep your car headed in the right direction," says Spénard.

Loss of control: focus on where you're headed.

Spenard suggests keeping "your foot on the brake until the car comes to a complete stop. Remain calm and manoeuvre your car out of the way to avoid any danger of being hit by approaching vehicles."

Other drivers: keep your distance.

"Whether the road is icy, wet, or snow-covered, all responsible drivers will drive defensively, slow down, and keep an even longer distance than usual from the vehicle in front," says Spenard.

The uncertainties of winter driving: prepare for the worst.

"Get into the habit of checking weather conditions before setting off, prepare an emergency kit, remove all the snow from the vehicle, etcetera. These tips may seem simple, but they can really make all the difference," says Spenard.

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