Unless you live in a tropical climate, chances are you’ll see some driving time on roadways that have packed snow, or have been plowed with an icy layer that is hopefully covered in sand or salt. As a responsible driver, it’s up to all of use to stay knowledgeable about driving in all kinds of conditions. Granted, not all of us are lucky enough to live near the mountains, but lots of us still get to experience the joy of driving in a winter wonderland. Unfortunately, the reality of winter driving also includes images of fishtailing vehicles on icy roads.
In short, the intent of this blog is to give you some advice on how to navigate snowy or icy roads. Some people relish the challenge of driving through white powder, while others are frightened to death to travel in the winter. Whichever the case may be, winter roads conditions require a great deal of respect, or they’ll punish you with an unwanted car accident.
Tip For Driving In the Snow
Some of the following tips were provided by AAA experts:
- Make sure you get plenty of rest and you are alert when driving on snow, as you’ll need a faster reaction time in snow than better road conditions. Drink coffee before you travel long distances, or take a travel mug with you.
- In order to see and be seen by others, clear off all the snow on your vehicle.
- If driving visibility is low, keep your headlights on low beam only.
- Never warm up your car in an enclosed area, like a garage. Failure to do so can result in carbon monoxide poisoning, or even death.
- Don’t mix radial tires with other kinds of tires. It’s best to use the same mix of tires for the best control and stability.
- In snow, it’s best to accelerate and decelerate slowly for best traction. Everything takes longer in the snow, including starting, stopping, turning, accelerating, etc. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get to where you are going, too.
- The “three to four second” car length rule of following behind another vehicle to give you adequate distance behind them, should be increased to “8 to 10 seconds.” You can determine this by visually marking something ahead of traffic, and once the car in front of it reaches that point, begin counting until your vehicle reaches it.
- Threshold braking is recommended in snowy conditions. Basically, put the heel of your foot on the floor and the ball of your foot on the brake, and then apply braking as needed.
- Don’t try and power up hills. Instead build up some speed and inertia before reaching the hill, so that the added inertia can help you get over the hill without applying unnecessary acceleration. Go down the hill as slowly as possible.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. Nothing good can come from trying to get started going up a hill in icy conditions.
- On highways, stay in the lane that has been cleared of snow the most. If your wheels begin to slip and spin, the best way to regain traction is to decelerate until you regain traction.
- Traction is always greatest just before your wheels start to spin. Therefore, only a little acceleration is needed to get moving in snowy and icy conditions.
- The “Push, Pull, Slide” method of steering is recommended in snow, so that your arms never cross each other, and you get continuous steering wheel movement in either direction.
- Be aware that shaded spots and overpasses tend to have ice form on them first.
- Skids occur when you apply the brakes and one or more wheels lock up, causing you to slide on snowy roads. To correct this from happening, turn the wheels in the direction you plan to go in and let up on the brakes until you get traction back.
- Braking on snowy and slippery surfaces requires greater distances of visibility.
- When parking, before coming to a complete stop, pull forward and backwards in order to create yourself a worn path to drive on.
- If you get stuck in snow, you can perform the “rock” maneuver. This requires using a very low gear and very gentle acceleration to go forward and backward, until you have created a pathway to free your vehicle.
- If you don’t really have to be somewhere, just stay home and watch the snow from your house.