Five winter driving myths busted

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We've already had the first snowfall of winter and while the news stations and weather reports haven't yet declared the inevitable 'travel chaos', driving in winter still presents its own challenges.
Visibility is often poor, road grip often low and too many road users fail to adapt to the conditions, making driving during the colder months particularly tough.
What's more, people fall into the trap of believing a few oft-repeated myths about driving in winter, potentially increasing the risk of accidents, traffic snarl-ups and stressful drives. We've selected five winter driving myths and deconstructed each one for your benefit.

Four-wheel drive vehicles are invincible
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Four-wheel drive vehicles are invincible

'Four-wheel drive vehicles are invincible'

If you count the number of Range Rovers and quattro-equipped Audis in ditches after a particularly bad snow-storm, you'll know this one isn't the case.
Four driven wheels is of course helpful for extra traction. Where a regular car might spin its power uselessly away, four-wheel drives have twice the driven contact patch for finding grip. 
But when it's particularly snowy or icy, four driven wheels do very little for lateral grip and even less for braking. In fact, a heavy SUV may be worse than a regular car when it comes to pulling to a halt, as it's much harder to bring all that mass to a halt on a low-friction surface. In other words, just because you can go, it doesn't mean you can stop.

Winter tyres are useless if it doesn't snow
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Winter tyres are useless if it doesn't snow

'Winter tyres are useless if it doesn't snow'

Again, not at all true. While it's certainly possible to get through a mild winter without winter tyres - thousands of drivers manage just fine every year - regular summer and all-season tyres are still less effective when it starts getting colder.
Winter tyres have a softer compound of rubber that helps them find better purchase even if the asphalt is merely cold. Many manufacturers recommend winter tyres when average temperatures fall below around 7 degrees celcius - as normal tyres become hard and start to skim over the surface of the road rather than finding purchase.
And of course, the extra tread cuts and thin 'sipes' in the tread blocks offer much greater traction when it actually snows.

I only need to clear snow from my windows
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I only need to clear snow from my windows

'I only need to clear snow from my windows'

Every winter, you'll spot at least one driver who has barely scooped a letterbox-style opening in the snow from his or her windscreen before setting off. But plenty more drivers clear the windows, assuming that's good enough to drive off with.
While tempting to do the bare minimum, it's always wise to clear as much snow as possible from your car - including the bonnet and the roof.
Not only does this prevent the snow (and possibly ice) flying off at speed and hitting other cars, but it reduces the risk of your view being blocked when you brake and a roof-load of snow covers your windscreen.

Under-inflating tyres improves traction
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Under-inflating tyres improves traction

'Under-inflating tyres improves traction'

This myth seems fairly common, but it can be dangerous. Tyres are designed to work well at the pressures stated in the car's handbook (and often in the car's door frame). They're at their most economical, grippiest and safest when correctly inflated.
In theory, under-inflating gives you a wider contact patch on the road. But tyre pressures drop when the weather is cold anyway, and running on under-inflated tyres can damage them, increasing the risk of splitting, punctures and blow-outs.
Keeping your tyres correctly inflated allows them to do their job just as the tyre manufacturer intended. If you're going to adjust pressures this winter, ensure they're in the correct range for your vehicle.

More lighting is better lighting
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More lighting is better lighting

'More lighting is better lighting'

Lights are especially important around winter. In low sun, a car with headlights on is much easier to spot. Likewise when it's snowing or raining, and of course during the longer winter nights.
However, those same visibility problems you experience yourself over winter are being experienced by everyone else too - so don't compound their problem by running around with every light blazing.
Fog lights should be only used in fog. They're designed to light up the edges of the road when further visibility is compromised. Likewise, only use main beams when the road ahead is clear. Do your fellow drivers a favour and turn them off as soon as you see another vehicle approaching - even at a distance, they can dazzle enough for an oncoming driver to lose sight of their lane.
Oh, and remember to check your bulbs frequently over winter. Driving with fog lights or main beams in lieu of fully-functioning dipped beams is not a suitable alternative.

Brought to you by Evo Magazine
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