Editors note: We have 5 Mondays this month and a lot of crazy bad weather this winter, so we’re calling an audible and publishing a post about driving in winter.
Many places have severe winters and people who live there learn to drive in those conditions or learn to get where they need to go without it. These days we can’t count on usual weather patterns and many of us who live in mild climates can be thrust into winter weather driving without much time to prepare. Many of us get stranded at home by even small amounts of snow or ice that in other places would be considered drivable.
While we at the Kicker encourage readers to use their own judgement and respect their own limitations if you do need to wander out into winter road conditions you don’t often encounter these tips can help you. For experienced severe winter drivers these might seem like common sense but for many of us, it’s a good idea to refresh yourself before heading out into the cold.
Winter Driving Tips
Most nightmares are experienced under blankets. Now that winter is upon us, the roads are under a blanket of snow that can be an absolute nightmare to drive on. Here are some winter driving tips to help you get from point A to point B safely.
See and be Seen
Limited traction isn’t the only difficulty presented by winter driving. Snow and ice can hinder both your ability to see and be seen. Fortunately, you can address this issue before you even pull onto the road. Brush off your car, and scrape off any ice found on your windows, windshield, and side view mirrors. Clear snow from your headlights, brake lights, and turn signals to ensure that other drivers see you and know where you’re going.
When it’s particularly cold out, it can be tempting to skimp on the brushing and scraping—to simply run a brush over your windshield a few times to get out of the cold—and let the defroster clear up the ice as you go. Resist this temptation, as it is very dangerous. Not only does it compromise your visibility, but if you drive with a bunch of snow on your car, it can blow off and obstruct the view of other drivers. A little elbow grease before you hit the road goes a long way in keeping you safe.
When the white stuff has fallen, take it as a sign to slow down and drive deliberately. If you attempt to accelerate too quickly, your wheels may spin out. Brake too aggressively, and you may slide. Turn to sharply and your front tires may slide. When your tires aren’t gripping the road, you no longer have control over your vehicle.
Slow down before curves and corners, while you are still driving in a straight line. If you lose traction in the midst of a turn you run the risk of sliding off the road or into oncoming traffic. Gently press the accelerator throughout the turn. The key word being “gently. Save the fishtailing for the Dukes of Hazzard.
Resist the temptation to stomp on the accelerator during hill climbs, as doing so can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. Never use cruise control during the winter. Winter driving requires a deft touch on the pedals, and using cruise control is likely to make you lose control of your vehicle.
Anticipation is crucial for safe winter driving. Getting up to speed, as well as slowing down, will take longer. You must allow for this. Give yourself more time to pull out onto roads, and leave larger gaps between you and the cars in front of you. If you must stop or yield, begin decelerating earlier so you may do so gradually. Also, be aware of the traffic around you; some drivers fail to properly adjust their driving to match the conditions and can pose a threat to your safety.
Winter driving can be a daunting undertaking. However, by following the tips above, you can avoid many of the pitfalls others fall victim to. And remember, if on a particularly nasty day you don’t feel safe behind the wheel, stay put. There’s no shame in staying home to avoid adverse driving conditions. Be safe.