Winter is here, and with it come a number of hazardous driving conditions. One minute you’re driving down the road with confidence, and the next moment your vehicle hits a patch of black ice and spins off the road. Staying home is advisable when roads aren’t treated, but if you must travel, follow these five tips for driving in snow:
1. Ease Up on the Gas Pedal
The roads may appear clear, but transparent ice — also known as black ice — can be anywhere, especially near the sides of the road and at intersections. When accelerating or slowing down, do so deliberately. A sudden surge of power can cause your wheels to spin, and at the same time, hard braking can cause sliding. During the winter, always give yourself extra time to stop when approaching a traffic light or stop sign.
Snowy roads make it difficult to slow down, so you should increase the space interval between your car and the one in front of you. In fair weather, most states advise using the two-second rule: Pick a stationary object at the side of the road, such as a sign or an overpass. Once the car in front of you reaches that object, count out two seconds.
Your car should only pass the object after those two seconds have gone by. Otherwise, you’re too close. On snowy roads, you need to double that interval to allow for sufficient stopping or emergency maneuvering.
If you own a four-wheel drive vehicle, keep in mind that it won’t do any better than other vehicles when it comes to stopping, so you should take the same precautions.
3. Ascend Hills the Right Way
When reaching a hill, start your ascent with sufficient power and keep your foot off the accelerator. Don’t stop your climb, or you’ll find it difficult to maintain momentum. Once you reach the top of the hill, reduce your speed and allow your car to make its way down the other side of the hill slowly. Keep in mind that any sudden movement of the wheels on snowy roads can cause them to spin.
4. Maintain Control of Your Brakes
Most modern cars come equipped with anti-lock brake systems (ABS), which can reduce the number and severity of accidents. Since 2012, federal law also requires new vehicles to have electronic stability control, a system that works in tandem with ABS.
If your car begins to skid and is equipped with ABS, press hard on the brake pedal and keep your foot firmly in place as you attempt to steer clear of obstacles. For vehicles without ABS, keep your heel on the floor and use the ball of your foot to firmly press the brake.
5. Only Stop if Absolutely Necessary
Traffic lights and stop signs require you to come to a full stop, as does heavy traffic. In all other situations, however, avoid stopping if possible. Once you stop, it may be difficult to get moving again, especially if the snow is deep and you don’t have winter tires or chains.
Get Ready for Winter
These tips for driving in snow won’t do you much good if your car isn’t ready for the season. If snowy roads are common in your area, winter tires or snow chains are a good investment. Your car should be in top working order before you head out on the road.
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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.