Jason ShuehNorth Lake Tahoe Bonanza

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November 18, 2011
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Motoring the slippery slopes: Tips for driving in the winter

LAKE TAHOE — Accidents, traffic tickets, injuries: three ways to quickly ruin your winter weekend and freeze up personal finances.Sgt. John Giovannini from the Placer County Sheriff's Office branch in Tahoe City has seen it — tiringly — too many times.Sighing, Giovannini can recount a chronicle of close calls, near misses and fatal tragedies. While Tahoe’s Sierra Nevada slopes are known for their epic ski chutes and black diamond runs, Giovannini points out that the terrain also creates treacherous driving conditions.As winter nears, Giovannini outlines below a few pointers for visitors and locals alike.

1. Red lights still mean stop: Giovannini says many drivers are caught running red lights when their tires lose traction and they continue into an intersection. This is a result of going too fast, he says, meaning drivers need to slow down.2. Four-wheel confusion: Just because you have four-wheel drive doesn’t mean you’re invincible to slick roads. Giovannini says four-wheel drive tourists unfamiliar with driving in snow occasionally overestimate their vehicle’s ability to stop and corner. He recommends allowing greater distances between vehicles and, as always, keeping it slow.3. Chain reaction: Giovannini says he remembers the tragic incident when a man was crushed by a vehicle as he lay just off the highway putting on chains — the type of accident he says is common. “Drivers need to pull well off the roadway to avoid being hit,” Giovannini says.4. Monster trucks, monster mash: Bigger is not always better. Surprisingly, Giovannini says it’s the big-tired, lifted trucks and jeeps that encounter the most problems in the snow. This, he says, is due to two factors — the idea they are invincible and the fact their higher center of balance makes them prone to rolling.5. Pick-up traction satisfaction: Traction equals control and control equals safety, a reason why Giovannini recommends those with pick-up trucks make sure to weight their rear tires. Locals, Giovannini says, use wet hay bails to add heft.6. Bailing in the berms: If caught in a slide, unable to break, Giovannini recommends steering your vehicle into the closest berm of snow — especially if you’re headed for an intersection.7. Clean your plate: Snow mounts on hoods, windshields and mirrors. Giovannini says it’s important to make sure — despite snow — that your license plate is clearly visible, as it could get you a citation.8. Ignorance is not bliss: Some drivers, Giovannini says, are either ignorant about chain restrictions or willingly ignorant about chain restrictions. Citations aside, he says it’s just common sense to chain up when it’s posted.9. Rising ridges: When climbing a steep hill — and unable to get enough traction to get up it — a tip not known to newbies, Giovannini says, is to straddle the ridge of the road where soft snow has collected. The textured surface is sometimes enough for tires to, slowly, push your vehicle upward.10. Goodie bag: Preparing for the worst, Giovannini says having extra warm clothing, food and water in the vehicle is a must. Also a medkit, and extra winter windshield washer fluid is another must as road grime from melted snow can prevent visibility.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 25, 2013 12:56PM Published Nov 18, 2011 12:17PM Copyright 2011 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.