With temperatures dropping to sub-freezing temperatures, and snow falling, many students are beginning to experience driving in the snow for the first time. Don’t have a car with All-Wheel Drive or Four-Wheel Drive? Here are a few tips on how to drive in the snow without totaling your car.
Prepare your car for winter conditions if you know it will snow. Make sure your tires have enough tread and load a shovel or snow chains into the trunk of your car.
Driving in the snow isn’t difficult as long as you are careful and drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Because your wheels will most likely just spin and cause you to skid if you press on the gas pedal too quickly, it’s best to not hurry things.
The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds for icy roads. This increased following distance will provide the longer distance needed if you have to slow down for a stoplight or to make a turn. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS) and need to slow down quickly, press on the pedal-it’s normal for the pedal to vibrate a bit when the ABS is activated and simply steer where you want to go.
This may seem like a weird concept, but steer in the direction you want to go, which is often in the direction of the skid. (If the tail end of your car is skidding right, steer right.) Your car should start to self-correct. Accelerate gently to get your wheels moving again and increase traction.
Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach a hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. Try to not stop on the hill, as it will be difficult to get started again without skidding. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
To conclude, driving in the snow is almost as easy as driving on dry pavement. Avoid driving fast, slow down, increase your following distance, and steer in the direction you want to go if you start to skid. If you still feel as though you are unprepared, it’s best to have someone else drive you or stay home.
(Photo: Tim Zyla AP)
By: Jon Truong