Winter driving tips to avoid costly crashes

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by ERIC WILKINSON / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on February 7, 2014 at 5:24 PM

Updated Friday, Feb 7 at 7:51 PM

EVERETT, Wash. -- Even with just a few flurries expected this weekend, Todd Peterson is preparing for an avalanche of  busted up cars in his tow lot.

"We do 100 to 150 on a normal day. It can go up to 300 and you just can't get there fast enough," said Peterson, the vice president of Dick's Towing in Everett.

A momentary lapse of judgment in wintery weather can cost you dearly. The tow alone is at least $178. If your car ends up impounded it'll cost you $45 per day. If you're even more unlucky and your car needs work you'll pay your deductible (usually $1,000) and then you'll probably need a rental car for a week. That's a total of about $1,500.

How to best avoid an expensive wreck that will ruin your weekend?
  
Trooper Mark Francis says the two biggest mistakes people make are driving too fast for conditions and following too closely. If the road is wet, slow down and give as much space as you can between cars.  If you do hit a situation where you're losing control of your car, Francis says, don't hit the brakes.

"It doesn't take much to put you 30, 40 feet off the roadway and into a ditch," he said.

Francis advises drivers to take your foot off the gas and turn in the opposite direction of the way you're sliding.

"Let the weight of the car slow your vehicle down, not the brakes," he said. "Then gently accelerate."

To avoid dangerous situations, especially on curvy roads like Stevens Pass, Francis says gently hit your brakes on straightaways to keep your speed under control, but don't touch them when you're in a curve.

And remember, while we're all thinking spring, there is still plenty of winter left.

"We find people out there on the side of the road in shorts and a t-shirt," said Todd Peterson. "You gotta me more prepared when this weather is around."

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