It took a little while, but winter finally is in full swing. That means we’re back to dealing with slick roads and potentially whiteout conditions.
Most people try to avoid driving at all costs when the conditions get really bad, and rightfully so. Staying home means emergency vehicles can get where they need to go faster, plows can clear the roads quicker and, of course, you stay out of harm’s way.
Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to venture into the storm. But you can do more than just cross your fingers and hope for the best in those situations. To give you some confidence when the roads are snowy, we made a list of six tips that will help you survive even the most inclement weather.
Photo via Ford
Do one thing at a time
People can make driving seem complicated, but a driver fundamentally has just three main tasks if the car has an automatic transmission: Accelerating, braking and steering. Doing more than one of these things at a time could cause you to overload the tires and lose traction. When turning, for example, its best to brake in a straight line, roll through the turn and get back on the gas once you straighten the steering wheel.
Thumbnail photo via Toyota
Decrease speed, increase following distance
Most people are good about driving slower when there’s snow and ice on the ground, but not nearly as many motorists increase their following distance like they should. The main reason it’s important to drive slowly in the snow is that there’s a lot less grip, which means it takes more time to stop. Just decreasing your speed might help you stay under control in a straight line, but if you’re tailgating the car in front, you’re probably still going to hit it.
Photo via Flickr/nathalie
Clear off your entire car
We’ve all seen somebody driving after brushing off their windows but leaving that giant chunk of snow or ice on the roof they were too lazy to get. If it were up to us, these drivers would lose their license on the spot. What they’re blissfully unaware of — or too apathetic to care about — is that the large clump could break off and fly at the cars behind them. That’s not only dangerous because it impacts visibility for the trailing vehicles, but depending on how heavy the snow is, it also could lead to a fatal pileup.
Photo via Pexels
Many states have rules about driving while talking on the phone for a reason, yet some people still think it’s acceptable to do so, even when the weather is bad. No matter what somebody tells you, it’s impossible to focus as intently on the road while you’re on the phone as you could otherwise. As a result, if something unexpected happens ahead of you, or your car suddenly loses traction, your reaction time will be delayed — not to mention, you’ll only have one hand on the wheel.
Photo via Flickr/Toyota UK
Know how to react to skids
We’ve all been told to “steer into the skid,” but the truth is, that only works if the back end loses grip. If your front wheels start sliding and you apply corrective steering lock, you’re going to keep plowing forward. To correct understeer, you have to ease off the throttle and onto the brakes, that will slow your front wheels enough to regain grip. We stress “ease,” because heavy acceleration or braking inputs will further unsettle the car.
Photo via Land Rover
Don’t be a hero
This actually is good advice for driving in any weather; it just means a different thing in each situation. In the summer, it means don’t turn the traction control off unless the roads are bone dry. In the winter, it means put chains on your tires if you want to try mountain driving. Yes, Ben Collins recently proved some vehicles are capable of tackling some extreme conditions. But while your car might be able to handle anything you throw at it, you are not the former Stig, so you don’t have the skill needed to fully exploit your car’s abilities.
Thumbnail photo via Flickr/Toyota UK