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The weather is so unpredictable, and this time of year you never know when to expect black ice, heavy snow, icy roads or a mixture of road conditions.

So what do you do if you find yourself driving sideways? If you have racing experience or been to a performance driving school, it should be second nature. But what about everyone else? Do you remember what you learned in driver's education?

Here are a few simple steps to help keep you on the road and less stressed.

> How to recover ?from loss of traction

Loss of vehicle traction over slippery conditions, or for whatever reason, is always dealt with in the same manner. The object is to maintain your original path by looking where you want your vehicle to stop, and resisting the natural urge to look at trees and other objects you don't want to strike, including pedestrians.

Step 1: Understand that the process for recovering from a skid is the same for cars with front- or rear-wheel drive.

Step 2: Maintain eye contact with a safe area where you want your vehicle to go.

Step 3: Take your foot off both the gas and brake pedals immediately.

Step 4: Turn smoothly into the direction you want the car to go. Do not slam on the brakes. Locked, sliding tires have no directional control. For vehicles with anti-lock braking systems, you can, in most situations, step lightly and keep constant pressure on the brake pedal.

> How to drive in ?icy conditions and slides

The key to driving in icy conditions is to move slowly and brake gently.

Step 1: Use the defroster and windshield wipers for better visibility.

Step 2: Brakes are not your friend the gas pedal will help you get away.

Step 3: Give sufficient warning time to other drivers when turning, stopping or changing lanes.

Step 4: Keep plenty of distance between cars.

Step 5: If you do skid, turn the wheels into the direction of the skid.

Step 6: Keep in mind that melting ice is still slippery. Drive slowly so that your tires can push water through their grooves for better traction.

> Tips and warnings

* Four-wheel drive cars maneuver better on snow, but that doesn't mean they can stop quickly. Leave plenty of distance between you and other cars. If you pass the same landmark as the car in front of you within three seconds, you are following too closely.

* Put chains on your tires if they are required or recommended by local highway officials.

* Avoid cruise control when driving on ice.

It can also be helpful to practice these techniques in an empty lot so when loss of traction happens, you will be prepared.