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Accident-prone daughter needs a winter-driving class

Dear Car Fix: We have three children 22, 20, and 17 and all have taken driver's Ed. my question to you is concerning our 20-year-old daughter. She has been in two accidents, both with very costly damage. The first was when she was 17 and the last one just yesterday.

She went off to college out of state shortly after the first so she was not driving a lot, except when she was home on school breaks, She has since transferred back to snowy Buffalo and we feel maybe she should take a driving course that actually teaches you how to react to different road issues.

My question is, where do I look for this type of in-car course?

-- C.S., Lancaster

Dear CS: There are additional classes that are offered at WNY AAA, as well as local driving schools.

If you are really serious, the best winter school is the Bridgestone Winter Driving School with a full range of winter-driving programs for all abilities, from the novice to the seasoned professional. If you have the dedication to improve your skill level, Bridgestone is located in Steamboat Springs, Colo., or check it out at www.winterdrive.com.

In everyday driving situations, cars with both ABS (Anti Lock Brakes) and traditional braking systems are basically identical. In an emergency stopping situation, two distinctly different techniques are required to stop the car.

The beauty of ABS is that pressing the brake pedal as hard as possible and holding it there allows the computer to pump the brakes while still maintaining some steering effectiveness. Remember that ABS can't perform miracles: if you feel ABS engaging during everyday driving, slow down, because you are exceeding the reasonable speed for the conditions.

With non-ABS brakes, the cadence, or pumping technique, is most effective in an emergency, but the driver must lift off the brake if steering is required to avoid an obstacle.

Driving is a combination of art and sport, and the fastest way to master the challenge is with good coaching, practice and dedication.

Moreover, whether you are a good or bad driver can mean life or death for you, your family and those around you.

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Dear Car Fix: Are tire air pressure sensors and tire pressures useful or useless?

-- G.Z., Akron

Dear G.Z.: I've discussed both tire pressure and tire pressure monitors before, but I still receive many questions on this topic.

Tire pressure sensors are becoming standard and will be mandated by the federal government. A tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is an electronic system designed to monitor the air pressure inside the tire. These systems report real-time tire-pressure information to the driver of the vehicle, through a gauge, light or display.

Checking your tire pressure is one of the most important and useful things you can do to get the best fuel economy, braking, handling and life of your tires. So be sure to check you tire pressure once a month in the morning. Get the right tire pressure from the sticker inside your driver's door. With gas prices rising, checking tire pressure can improve your fuel economy by one to two miles to the gallon, according to the Car Care Council. www.carcare.org

It's your responsibility as a driver to check your tire pressures monthly, or at least to have them checked by someone else.

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Dear Car Fix: When purchasing a pre-owned vehicle, who do you trust to provide you with an unbiased and independent opinion of a vehicle's true condition?

-- S.P., Buffalo

Dear S.P.: My rule is to NEVER trust just one source. This is where your homework is so important to get the best deal. You will need the Internet for researching prices, safety ratings, resale, vehicle history reports and insurance information; plus a qualified ASE (Automotive Service Excellence) technician. Also asking friends, family and the Better Business Bureau for the referrals it's a good way to do find a dealer that will treat you right.

To get the most car for the money, look at a CERTIFIED PRE-OWNED vehicle. These previously owned vehicles that have been inspected and guaranteed to be better than other used cars because they are checked for more than the basic safety. Typically, they are less than three years old with less than 50,000 miles and are the cream of the crop. The best are certified by the manufacturer and are sold by new car dealerships. Be leery of certified pre-owned vehicles from independent used car dealerships as it's usually just a basic safety list.

As for car choices, drive as many as you can to find what works for your family, then limit the choices and drive them again. Don't shop on monthly payments, as there are many creative ways to finance cars to meet just about any budget and credit standing.

Once you've decided on a few car models, price-shop them against other local dealers and use the Internet to get the best prices.

Don't ever go into a car deal blind, ask someone who doesn't know, or solely trust a salesperson.

e-mail: contact@laurenfix.com

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