For those of you not fortunate enough to have settled in a tropical region, dealing with snow and ice is probably a part of life for at least one season each year. If you've found yourself in the ditch or on the median more than once, here are a few tips on how to keep yourself out of the winter news bloopers.
Test The Road. If (AND ONLY IF) you can find a safe place to do it, test your brakes to determine how easily your wheels will lock up. This will give you a feel for what the roads are like. Do the same test under acceleration. I live in a small cul-de-sac, which is the perfect spot for such tests. Don't even think of trying this in an area with lots of traffic or pedestrians. You can also get a pretty good feel for the road conditions with your shoes.
Slow Down. This might sound obvious, but you would be surprised. The faster you are going, the farther you'll slide if and when you lose control. At least if you are driving slowly, an unexpected encounter with a slick spot won't leave you sliding on for another 1/4 mile. Also, driving at a slower speed gives you more time to react. Braking will almost always take longer on snow, slush, and ice. It can be frustrating to get stuck behind someone driving REALLY slowly in the snow, but each individual should find a comfortable speed and stick with it. Don't go faster than what feels safe to you. If you're fearless, than please slow down for the sake of everyone else!
Leave More Space. Do your best to keep extra distance between yourself and the cars around you. Be careful not to tailgate. On highways, or roads with a passing lane, don't pass unless the full width of both lanes can be used.
React Slowly. This may sound contradictory, but I'll explain. If you're too quick to jerk the wheel or jab the brakes when you start to feel your car slide a bit, you're increasing your chances of completely losing control. In some cases, not reacting at all may keep you on track. The main point here is to make subtle, gentle adjustments when needed, instead of violent, abrupt maneuvers.
React Early. Plan ahead. When you know you're approaching a sharp turn, slow down before you think you need to. In case you slide a bit, you've already given yourself some extra room. Use the same caution when approaching a stop sign, or even a traffic light, whether it's red or not.
Other Ways To Stay Prepared
- Whether you a high-ground-clearance all-wheel-drive crossover like the Audi Q5 or a rear-wheel-drive performance car like the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS, having the right tires on your vehicle will make a difference. All-season or snow tires are a must. Summer or performance tires won't cut it, especially if your car or truck is RWD.
- Knock the snow off of your shoes when you get in the car, they'll be less likely to slip off the pedals in an emergency.
- As with anything else, confidence in the snow comes with experience and practice. You can't be too cautious when it comes to winter driving. Don't rush things, and don't try to exceed your limits of skill and comfort. Let's not add unintentional 4-wheel doughnuts to the winter Olympics lineup.