Preparation Before Driving
Before you set out on your journey, check the temperature outside. If it is below 32, the roads are likely to be slick. At 32 or higher, roads probably won’t be icy. It’s always a good idea to know what you are getting into.
Testing Road Slickness
This might sound surprising, but test the slickness of the road by tapping your brakes when you leave your house very slowly and there’s no one around. This practice can substantially help you understand the road conditions and prevent shocking surprises when you need to stop abruptly.
Getting a Grip on Driving: Slides, Turns, and Brakes
Remember: Don’t slam on your brakes when you start to skid. This action almost always worsens the situation. Instead, gently push on the gas a bit. This simple tip can help you regain control or gradually let off the gas and allow the car to decelerate on its own.
The same tip applies when you’re turning or cornering. Never brake in the middle of these maneuvers. Decelerate before you initiate your turn. If you start sliding, don’t panic and hit the brakes; just let off the gas and coast through. Slamming on the brakes will only make your vehicle slide further.
Shoulder Snow: A Friend in Need
Use the shoulder, especially where the snow is deep, to your advantage. It provides better grip. If you’re sliding, veer one tire into the shoulder snow, let off the gas, and allow your car to slow down. If the roads are treacherously slick and icy, it can be beneficial to drive with one tire on the shoulder where the sticky snow lies.
The Basics: Tires and Distance
Ensure that your vehicle is equipped with good tires, preferably suitable for snow conditions. Vehicles with four-wheel drive (4WD) or all-wheel drive (AWD) are always preferred in such conditions, as they offer better control. Maintain twice the normal distance between cars and slow down much sooner than you typically would. Avoid abrupt braking.
Downshifting Skills, Technology Assistance, and More
Learning to downshift, even in an automatic vehicle, can do wonders for preventing unnecessary braking and slowing the engine down. You should also familiarize yourself with your car’s control buttons. For instance, many car models have features for snow driving, like Subaru’s Xmode and windshield deicers.
Remember, if you’re losing control, adding a bit of gas can help you regain your traction. In the case of slides, instead of turning in the opposite direction, try turning in the direction of the slide while slowly braking.
Finally, Play it Safe
In the end, if driving in such conditions is too nerve-wracking or the road conditions are just too dangerous, it’s okay to choose safety. Call up a friend for a ride, or seek professional advice from an experienced local who knows how to navigate snowy roads.
Your safety is paramount, so drive slowly, brake early, stay alert, and get to your destination safe and sound!
Written by Randi Owsley. Contributions from Katie Strack, Karin Marie, Stefani Joy, Rachel Williams, Jessica Bullwinkle, Sara McClenan Weak, Rachel Forrester, and Susan Ferris Lehner.