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Training and tires are key to surviving winter driving

Larry Edsall
Special to The Detroit News

Two quick cautionary tales:

1. I remember sitting at my desk in the newsroom and watching and listening as editors and reporters took phone calls on the first icy morning of the winter from their sons and daughters who had just gotten their licenses, had no winter-driving experience and were off the road in a ditch — or worse.

2. When I worked at AutoWeek magazine, we had a Mazda Miata as a long-term test car and it was all but undriveable once winter arrived in Michigan.

My solution to No. 1 was to take each of my own children out the winter before they could drive legally, to find an empty but snowy, icy parking lot, and to let them feel what it was like to skid and even to spin and how to respond.

Our solution to No. 2 was to put a set of Bridgestone Blizzak winter tires on the Miata, and that new set of rubber transformed the sports car into a veritable snowmobile.

I'm sharing those tales because Bridgestone America is rolling out the next generation of its winter tire — the Blizzak DM-V2 — and the tire is specifically designed for sport utility vehicles, crossovers and pickups, just the sort of vehicle you and your family likely will be driving next winter.

The new tire will be available in July so you'll have plenty of time to get a set before next winter.

Bridgestone says the next-gen Blizzak is improved because it provides:

■Improved performance on ice thanks to a new Multi-Cell rubber compound that dimples water from the surface of the ice, thus reducing slippage and improving braking;

■Increased traction because of a redesigned tread pattern that provides 15 percent more block edges to boost snow-shearing force and provide better grip in snow and slush;

■Better handling with a contact patch with a "uniform dispersion of pressure" that provides better overall stability.

The new Blizzak DM-V2 will be available in 50 sizes ranging from 15 inches to 22 inches in diameter, from 40 to 70 series aspect and in speed ratings T (up to 118 miles per hour — the same as most all-season tires) and H (up to 130 mph).

Speaking of which, all-season tires don't work as well in the winter as specially engineered winter tires (they don't call them snow tires anymore). Winter tires are designed to remain flexible while optimizing grip at very low temperatures.

In the meantime, you can hone your winter-driving skills, or make sure your children have them, by enrolling in Bridgestone's Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where training runs through March 8, weather permitting. Classes are $280 for a half-day program or $495 for full day.

See www.winterdrive.com for information on the school. For more information on the Blizzak tires, both the current version and the new one, visit www.bridgestonetire.com.

Larry Edsall is a Phoenix-based freelance writer. You can reach him at ledsall@cox.net.