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Spring's here, watch for potholes!

We may still have to fight through a few more days of winter driving, but it's time to start getting ourselves into spring driving mode. As each season changes, so must our driving styles.

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We may still have to fight through a few more days of winter driving, but it’s time to start getting ourselves into spring driving mode. As each season changes, so must our driving styles.

This spring is the worst season for potholes in many years. The lengthy freeze-thaw this year, coupled with years of neglect, have caused a plethora of potholes. Hitting one of them at high speed will not only damage your vehicle, it could easily put you into a collision or crash.

Keep in mind, roads that are used frequently by heavy trucks tend to deteriorate more. Focus on your driving and keep your eyes well up the road.

Most potholes usually occur along pavement seams, and areas where truck or bus tires wear down the asphalt and allow water to get into the road base.

By keeping your tires out of the well-travelled ruts and away from pavement seams, you can avoid most potholes or having to suddenly swerve to miss them.

Stay farther back from the vehicle in front of you, as drivers who do not follow too closely will have much more time to avoid being swallowed up by potholes.

Another spring phenomenon to be wary of is shoulders of roads being much softer than usual because of all the meltwater. Use extra care if you are pulling off the road or if your wheel hits the shoulder.

The receding snow will also reveal a winter’s worth of debris that has not been collected by road crews. Watch for extra rubbish on the side of the roads if you’re pulling off the highway.

Remember: be smooth with your steering inputs and never jerk the steering wheel to rush your return to the pavement.

As the days grow warmer, more and more motorcyclists and cyclists will take to the roads. After a winter of not seeing these smaller vehicles, you may find yourself surprised by their appearance in your blind spots. It’s a good time to take that extra look so as not to run them over.

As some of us make the change from winter tires to summer or all-season tires, we should keep in mind that road temperature plays a role in determining the amount of tire grip.

The quantity of traction that most summer or all-season tires develop deteriorates when the ambient temperature is below 8C.

In other words, on those frosty spring days, you may be surprised to find you have less tire grip than you did with your winter tires.

After this very snowy winter, many roads will still have snowbanks piled along the shoulder or the ditches.

With the warmer weather, they will melt during the day, but with temperatures still capable of dropping below freezing as the sun sets, you need to be aware of the possibility of ice forming on what was wet roadway.

This occurs particularly on curves where the road is super-elevated or banked and the meltwater will run across the width of the road.

In rural areas, more sand than salt is used when treating snow-covered roads. As the snow and ice recedes, the layer of sand left behind on the road surface will reduce traction.

Those little grains of sand act much like ball bearings under your tires. Though busy rural roads may be clear of sand, care should be taken on secondary roads.

The warmer weather will also bring many animals out of hibernation. Raccoons, skunks, porcupines and other four-legged creatures will be out looking for food.

Deer will begin to migrate from their winter grounds. Motorists need to be even more focused on driving in early morning and evening hours when the animals are more active.

If you do encounter an animal crossing in front of you, brake to avoid the animal. But do not try to veer around smaller animals unless you are 100 per cent sure of your avoidance skills. Motorists and passengers have lost their lives trying to avoid hitting small animals.

Enjoy the warmer, sunny weather as it arrives, but never let your mind stray from the task of safe driving.

Driving instructor and race-car driver Ian Law can be reached at ianlaw@carcontrolschool.com

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