Decades of winter driving experience have taught us that following these easy winter driving principles will considerably increase your chances of arriving calm, collected, comfortable, and most importantly safe. If you live where it snows, you’ve probably witnessed overconfident cars fly by on a snowy road, wondering if they’ll end up in a ditch.
Smooth steering, acceleration, and braking are essential for snow driving safety. Why? Jerky control motions readily unstick tires with a fragile grip on the icy road, thus every wheel rotation, brake press, and throttle action must be careful, smooth, and slow.
The slicker the road, the further you should look—and consider. Plan your next steps. For turns, slow down. Allow for double the stopping distance on wet roads, and treble on snow and ice.
Respect Flashing Lights
A snowy road’s traction is limited. Understanding what a small amber flashing light in the instrument cluster represents can help you avoid trouble.
If you feel your automobile starting to slide, look where you want to go, not where it is going. Allow your peripheral vision to deal with the problem. This is one of the reasons why race drivers are so good at recovering from skids.
Your automobile will start to slide away from the direction you want it to go when you encounter a slick patch. Skids, even big ones, can be controlled quickly. Not panic—and don’t hit the brakes! Instead, do this:
To avoid a front-wheel skid, ease off the gas. The front tires should acquire traction shortly.
To avoid a rear-wheel skid, immediately turn the steering wheel in the same direction as the rear tires slide. If the rear swings left, turn the wheel left. Relax the accelerator and avoid braking.
Ways To Use Anti-Lock Brakes
If everything else fails and you need to stop fast in snow or ice, use your car’s anti-lock brakes (ABS). Anti-lock brakes employ an integrated computer to optimize braking under harsh conditions. If you’re in a skid and need to avoid an obstruction, and your car has ABS, slam the brakes hard and don’t let up.
Monitor Your Traction
Aside from the traction-control and stability-control warning lights, your anti-lock brake system can help you gauge road grip. When braking for grip, some anti-lock brake systems will flash a small amber light in the instrument cluster to indicate low traction. Almost every snowy drive has varying traction levels due to changing road and weather conditions.
All-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles might give you a false sense of confidence on slick roads. They deliver power to all four wheels rather than just two, allowing for spectacular, slip-free acceleration, especially from rest, giving the illusion of considerably greater traction than is actually available.
This is a survival tip, not a driving tip. That’s because installing a set of four winter tires (also known as “snow tires”) is the ideal way to increase your safety margin and lessen your worry on snow-covered roads.
Read The Road
Is it glossy or dull? Is it all powder or are there bare places with snow in the shade? Is it cold enough for crunchy, light snow, or is it too warm for slush? If in doubt, stop the car and inspect the surface, but you may learn a lot about available traction just by knowing what to look for. Shiny means ice or water, both of which are unpleasant.
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