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Winter storm driving: What to do if you skid or get stranded

Winter storms like the one pounding the Northeast bring driving dangers, like losing control of your vehicle in a skid or getting stranded in it in a blizzard.

So what do you do if you're skidding out of control? Your instinct may be to jam on the brake and jerk the wheel, but according to certified driving instructor Tom Pecoraro, a former police officer, those are the worst things you can do.

"You're supposed to get off the brake, get off the accelerator, straighten the wheel, and then ride the skid out," Pecoraro told TODAY national investigative correspondent Jeff Rossen.

But what if you do skid and wind up stranded in your car in a blizzard? What you DON'T do is leave your car to seek help.

"One of the biggest mistakes you can make is leaving your vehicle," said Tracy Christensen of Wasatch Backcountry Rescue in Utah. "It's frigid out there. It's cold out there. If you don't know where you're going, you can die from frostbite and hypothermia." Expert say in temperatures below freezing, hypothermia can set in within 10 to 15 minutes.

"We will find you if you stay in your vehicle," Christensen emphasized.

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Other tips:

Run your car for 10 minutes an hour to stay warm. "But you also need to make sure that you're conserving fuel, because you could be here for the long haul," Christensen said.

Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow so that carbon monoxide doesn't enter the car, and never sleep alone in a running car. "That's just a recipe for disaster," Christensen said.

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And after the storm, when you head back on the road, you may still have a problem. There's an app for that too, called Honk, coming to your rescue. It finds nearby tow trucks to get you out of almost any problem.

Another tip: The Red Cross has a first aid app for both iPhone and Android that tells you the signs of hypothermia and frostbite and what to do if someone is experiencing them.

To suggest a topic for an upcoming investigation, visit the Rossen Reports Facebook page.

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