It’s that time of year that many of us will be traveling to see family and friends for the holidays. Having lots of experience driving in terrible weather, I’ve had to learn how to be safe and in control while driving on roads covered in ice, snow and rain - sometimes all three at a time.
When you live in areas that have bad winters, you quickly learn how to drive safely. It’s better to stay informed of how to drive safely in bad weather then learn the hard way and get into an accident, or even worse, pay the ultimate price.
Here are the best tips for driving safely on winter roads that I have learned throughout my experiences and what I was taught growing up.
Type of Tire
There are three different types of tires:
- Summer tires
- All-season tires
- Winter tires
Depending on the winter weather in your geographic location, recommendations will be different. When living somewhere that the temperature consistently drops below 45 degrees, it’s recommended to have winter tires on your car. Winter tires will help you to keep control on icy and snowy roads. Without winter tires, you risk losing grip on the road and control of your vehicle.
Driving on Ice
The most important concept when driving on ice is to stay alert and slow down. Pay attention to shaded areas, as these areas do not receive sunlight, creating an extremely slippery surface.
The most common question, “should I pump my breaks while trying to stop on ice?” The answer is yes and no. Only pump the brakes if your vehicle does NOT have an antilock braking system (ABS). An ABS is equal to pumping your brakes. If your vehicle has an ABS, gently push the brake down and let the system do its job.
Driving in Snow
Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads, so be prepared to drive slowly. Accelerating, stopping, turning - nothing happens as quickly as on dry roads. Driving slowly gives you time to maneuver.
Driving over mountain ranges can get a little tricky. Try not to stop while going up the mountain, as this will create problems when trying to move forward again, possibly sliding backwards down the mountain and out of control. Keep momentum on your side and give yourself time to slow down before reaching the downward section of the mountain.
Understand your braking system as we discussed in the section above.
Driving in Rain
The point of having tires with good tread is to grab the pavement and keep you moving forward. Rain makes it difficult for tread to make contact with the pavement and...you start to hydroplane.
To drive safely in the rain it’s important to keep both hands on the wheel at all times, reduce your speed and look to follow the tracks that are created from the cars in front of you. Keep a safe distance behind the car in front of you. A good rule of thumb is 1 second of following distance per 10 mph (16 km/h). That holds true especially in bad weather.
Stay Focused - No Day Dreaming
The main theme laid out in the tips above is to stay focused. I’m definitely guilty of losing my focus at times while driving a treacherous 8 ½ hour drive to my parents house, through the ice, rain and snow for the holidays. I’ve learned to pull over, take a break and let my wife drive for awhile.
Stay focused and be smart. Remember, you are in control of your actions. Be prepared for anything while driving in bad weather.
~ Derek Petersen
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