How Should I Drive in the Snow?
That’s easy! Everyone should drive in the snow with much care and great effort. But is that enough to make the roads safe during winter storms, when the streets and highways are covered with snow and ice? That’s probably not enough advice.
There are specific things you can do to make driving in the snow safer. Let’s begin with a couple of obvious ideas. First: Stay home. Law-enforcement officers and highway crews always urge people to stay home unless their travel is an absolute emergency. Unfortunately, there will always be a few situations that require us to get out on the roads with our cars and trucks.
If there is an idea about winter driving that should be at or near the top of the list it would be this: Slow down! A good general rule for driving on snow is cut your speed at least by half. You may even have to drive 10 or 15 miles per hour in streets that are designed for 30 or 35 miles per hour. Driving too fast for winter conditions is the most costly mistake you can make.
There are safety experts and others who have studied driving conditions and trained people to be safe in the worst of conditions. These experts always include a warning to their students that goes something like this: Stay alert and focus on driving defensively. Be prepared.
When you live in an area that receives significant snowfall every year you should be prepared for driving in these conditions. Front-wheel drive vehicles provide better traction in snow because they are pulling rather than pushing. If you can put snow tires or chains on your drive wheels, do it. There may be a time when you are glad you did.
Try to get a feel for the road conditions. Look farther ahead than you might in perfect driving conditions. You will need more time to react because your car simply will not stop as quickly on snow as it does on dry pavement. Leave more distance between you and a car in front of you. Start slowing down for stop signs and turns well ahead of the “normal” distance. This will also help drivers behind you to make their decisions in time.
Anticipate your stops and turns by started to touch the brakes lightly well before you come to the corner. Release your brakes and let the car move “naturally” through a turn. If you are going slowly enough you should be able to make a turn without incident. When steering in snowy conditions make small movements and try to be as precise as you can. Don’t make quick, sweeping turns of the steering wheel. You will only be asking for trouble.
Finally, learn how to control your car if you do start to slide or skid. If you can practice this in training on a practice course, so much the better. Basically you should take the power off the wheels by lifting your foot off the accelerator. Steer in the direction of the skid. Don’t hit the brakes. When the car starts to straighten you may be able to accelerate very gently. Remember, slow and steady is best in the snow.