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Be prepared for driving in wintry conditions

Dear Car Fix: I'm new to the Buffalo area and the snow is really scary to me. Can you give me some basic driving tips to get through this weather?

-- C.L., Kenmore

Dear C.L.: Here are a few ways for drivers to handle the winter weather conditions on the road.

As winter sets in, the roads can become a treacherous place for a vehicle. Snow and ice can create a whole new world on the road. Here are eight tips to keep you moving:

1. Adjust your speed to the conditions. When driving in challenging conditions, slow down. Decreasing speed and increasing the space between you and the next car will allow more time to respond when a difficult situation occurs.

2. Anticipate difficult situations. Eighty percent of all accidents could be prevented with only one more second to react. Gain this extra second by looking far enough ahead to identify problems before becoming a part of them.

3. Use tire grip effectively. When roads are slippery, always brake in a straight line before the curve in the road. Taking your foot off the brake before steering into the corner allows you to use the entire grip available for steering. Don't accelerate until the steering wheel is straight. Snow tires will help to give you the best grip.

4. Drive with your headlights on. Whenever daytime visibility is less than clear, turn on headlights so you can been seen. When traveling in snowy weather, regularly clear taillights, turn signal lights and headlamps.

5. Anti-lock brakes can't perform miracles. Although ABS braking systems offer the ability to brake and steer, they are still limited by the grip available on the road and the type of tires on your vehicle. If you're driving too fast into a corner and try to brake, even ABS won't keep you on the road.

6. Leave headlamps on low beam when driving in snow at night. This minimizes reflection and glare, improves visibility and reduces eye fatigue.

7. Wear quality sunglasses. Sunglasses help highlight changes in the terrain and road surfaces even in low visibility conditions. Polarized lenses are your best choice.

8. Don't forget to carry an emergency kit with extra blankets, nonperishable food, clothing and hand warmers.


Dear Car Fix: I heard that tax credits for hybrids were expiring. I was thinking about buying a Chevy Volt and that tax credit is a part of my choice. Am I going to get the tax credit? I haven't seen many details.

D.S., Williamsville

Dear D.S.: Yes, the federal hybrid and diesel tax credits on new cars end Dec. 31. However, tax credits for plug-in hybrids such as the Chevy Volt and electric cars like the Nissan Leaf have separate funding and do not expire this year.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005, which gave birth to the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit, expires at the end of this year. At this point, there is no expected tax incentive for 2011.

The termination also will affect some diesel-powered vehicles that get credits under the law. The $4,000 tax incentive on the compressed-natural-gas-powered 2011 Honda Civic GX will also go away.

The current tax credit offers a range from $900 all the way up to $3,400 on hybrid vehicles.

Also, many popular models -- from Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Audi, Lexus, Ford, Mercury and Lincoln -- no longer offer tax credits because of a phase-out plan in the law that goes into effect after an automaker sells more than a certain number of the hybrid or lean-burning vehicles.

Many state tax credits and rebate incentives for hybrids are available; you can check this list of qualified vehicles and their credits. If you are thinking about a hybrid, buy before Dec. 31, and you could reduce your tax liability.

*2010-11 BMW ActiveHybrid X6: $1,550

*2011 BMW ActiveHybrid Li, 750i and 335d: $900

*2011 BMW X5 xDrive 35d: $1,800

*2010-11 Cadillac Escalade hybrid: $2,200

*2010 Chevrolet Malibu hybrid: $1,550

*2010-11 Chevrolet Silverado and Tahoe hybrid: $2,200

*2010-11 GMC Sierra and Yukon hybrid: $2,200

*2010-11 Honda Civic GX: $4,000

*2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 and R350 BlueTec: $1,550

*2011 Mercedes-Benz GL350 BlueTec: $1,800

*2011 Mercedes-Benz ML350 BlueTec: $900

*2010 Mercedes-Benz S400 hybrid: $1,150

*2010-11 Mercedes-Benz ML450 hybrid: $2,200

*2010-11 Nissan Altima hybrid: $2,350

Remember don't buy a hybrid just because of the tax credit. There are many variables to consider, including insurance, monthly budgets and your driving needs.


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