Be Proactive. "Have a mechanic check your brakes, antifreeze, and wiper blades; make sure your tires are properly inflated; and scrape all the ice off your windows, mirrors, and headlights before you drive," DeVere says.
Don't run on empty. "Keep your tank at least half full. The extra gas reduces condensation that can plug your fuel line with ice and stall your engine."
Play it smooth. "Jerky steering can cause skidding, so turn the wheel with smooth, precise movements. Don't use cruise control—monitor your speed at all times."
Prepare for the worst. Pack a blanket, first aid supplies, flares, snacks, a shovel, ice scraper, flashlight, candles, matches, towrope, and a bag of cat litter (to sprinkle for tire traction). Because rear-end collisions are common in winter, DeVere recommends "adjusting your headrest so it hits squarely at the back of the head, which can prevent neck injuries."
Invest in a few gadgets. Dead battery? Flat tire? You won't have to brave the chill in search of help if you've got the Black & Decker Electromate 400 ($120), a combination air compressor and battery starter. And next time you're staring down the "check engine" light, plug the Black & Decker SmartScan ($80) into the outlet beneath the dashboard to get a diagnostic on the spot.
Cartoon above by Lee Lorenz: "Sorry, sweetie—kitty litter, yes; kitty, no."