One of the major problems with winter driving is that no one ever teaches us how to do it properly. Sure, you might get some winter driving tips when you study for your driver’s license, but most drivers’ education classes take place in the summer or when school is in session. Since we know that school get cancelled when the weather gets bad, how are people supposed to learn winter driving? Some parents who live in particularly snowy environments might take the time to teach teens good winter driving tips while they have their learners’ permits, but most don’t. Instead of being intimidated by driving in the snow and ice, follow these easy winter driving tips to take the fear out of driving and help keep the road safe.
Learn to interpret road conditions
The first and most important winter driving tip is to understand what the road conditions mean and what is most dangerous. You’re first thought might be that visible snow and ice are the most dangerous, but that is not always the truth.
Black ice is a particularly hazardous road condition. The ice is not really black, but is translucent on the pavement below. To the untrained observer, the road may look wet, but there are not telltale signs to indicate that it is slick. Since black ice can occur in patches when the road looks clear, it is particularly dangerous. Drivers are not expecting it and may be traveling at speeds that are too fast for the road conditions. Usually, this means you end up in the ditch, or worse.
Patchy ice is another warning phrase that is often overlooked. When the roads are snowpacked, people understand that the snow is preventing traction and slow down. They tend to plan to stop earlier and avoid collisions. When the ice is patchy, there can be little warning before the car or a single tire on the car, hits ice and starts to spin.
Snowpacked means that the roads have not been cleared. The snow has been packed down, often creating ruts. Driving in snowpacked conditions often means that there is nothing other than snow for your tires to grab for traction. These winter driving conditions are sometimes better than icy conditions, especially for vehicles with snow tires, tires designed to grip deeply in the snow for traction.
White-outs occur when blowing snow or falling snow prevents visibility. Driving in these conditions should be avoid if at all possible.
Know you vehicles
One of the most important keys to safe winter driving is to know the specifications of your vehicle. Front-wheel drive vehicles rely on the front tires to pull the car forward, so if the front of the car is on ice, you might get stuck. In a front wheel-drive vehicle, you are more likely to fishtail on ice. Rear-wheel drive vehicles are the opposite.
All wheel drive vehicles send pulling power to each tire and usually will not get stuck if only one tire is in the ice or snow.
Once you know where the torque of your car is most concentrated, the next question is what type of brakes do you have? Anti-lock brakes are touted as the safest for winter driving, because the brakes will not lock. When brakes lock the tires stop rotating and gripping into the snow, often causing slides.
If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, you can apply constant but gentle pressure to the brakes to stop on ice and snow. If you have traditional brakes, you gently pump the brakes, easing them on and off to slow down and stop in slick conditions. In both cases, stomping on the brake is a bad idea.
Learn when to slow down
Many people who are inexperienced with winter driving will attempt to brake as they go into a curve on the road. If you begin to brake as the car is turning, you are more likely to start to skid. Instead, break before you get to the curve and then accelerate through the curve.
Likewise, when beginning down a hill in snow and ice, apply the brake sparingly to avoid slipping and sliding.
The most important key to winter driving is to know your limitations and the limitations of your vehicle. Winter driving doesn’t have to be intimidating if you know how to do it.