Promote cautious, sensible driving skills to your customers because, ultimately, those techniques will be more useful than the most sophisticated tires you offer.
During dangerous driving conditions, the first line of defense is cautious, conservative driving. Something as simple as slowing downexercising restrainthelps a driver maintain or regain control of a vehicle.
Encouraging cautious driving may sound old-fashioned and out-of-touch with today's busy consumers. It could foment traumatic flashbacks to those dull, ninth-grade driver's educational films. How-ever, experience shows that simple but overlooked driving skills save lives, save vehicles. Experience also reinforces how often good-driving essentials are forgotten or poorly performed long after a driver's license is issued.
There's no question that systems such as anti-lock brakes, traction control and all-wheel drive are enormously helpful during difficult, dangerous driving conditions. These systems save lives and can prevent drivers from getting their vehicles stuck.
That said, however, sophisticated technology is supposed to complement rather than replace traits such as caution and patience. In the aftermath of an auto accident, does it appear that the driver exercised caution first? Or did the situation suggest overconfidence inpossibly an over-reliance onfancy technology?
I'll cite just two of the many experiences that color my outlook.
I was driving southbound on Interstate 87, traveling from Albany to Poughkeepsie, N.Y. I misjudged everything about a northbound snow storm and ended up in the middle of it. The snow plows hadn't passed yet. Vehicles ahead of me were leaving deep tracks in the snow.
I carefully followed the tracks in the right lane. My car has popular all-season tires and front-wheel drive but has no traction control, limited-slip differential or all-wheel drive. Keeping a substantial distance between my car and the next one, I averaged only 25 miles per hour for the next hour or more.
I had no trouble making progress until the snow plows appeared.
Meantime, I saw one vehicle after another that had crashed into another one, spun around completely, run off into the median, etc. These machines exemplified modern, go-anywhere technology.
Another time, a vicious ice storm had covered much of the southern U.S. No one in authority could estimate when Atlanta's airport would reopen.
I had a commitment in Nashville, Tenn., so I decided to test the highways to see if I could make any progress at all toward that destination. Lo and behold, the light traffic had formed ruts in the ice in northbound Interstate 75.
Slowly and patiently, I tracked those ruts in the right lanes in my low-tech rental car. I reached Nashville safely late that night.
Lots of fancy vehiclesknown for high-tech systemswere stuck on the roadside or in the median. Several had flipped over in the median; others were in awful collisions.
So whether it was snow in New York or ice in Georgia, why didn't the technology prevent these accidents?
Could technology actually have limitations?
Of course, driver error couldn't have influenced these accidents in any way, could it? Please draw your own conclusions.
To me, polite reminders about cautious driving add value to the tires and services you sell. Simply put, it reminds motorists that you care about their well-being. Perhaps one of your vendors already has a little crib sheet containing tips on foul-weather driving.
Maybe a vendor or a trade group has a generic video that you could hand out on a CD or possibly email to customersor show on a loop on a monitor in your shop's showroom. Maybe you could print something for customers, such as your own top-10 driving tips on the dealership's invoices or other literature.
Lastly, consider adding brief, bad-weather driving tips to print and broadcast advertisingand to your website. A percentage of the pros-pects out there will recognize that you care about their safety.