Illustration for article titled Winter Driving For Dummies

Having grown up in the Northeast, I became accustomed to snowy and icy roads from day 1 of driving. Literally, day one I had my permit, my dad took me to a parking lot full of snow and told me to punch it, then slam on the breaks to get a feel for how little traction a vehicle has in these conditions (my 1992 Taurus did not have ABS). After years of experience and a few close calls, I can say that I am confident (not overconfident though) driving in winter conditions.

Unfortunately, others do not have this luxury or have not taken the time to learn to drive in winter weather, and it causes all sorts of havoc when they do encounter a snowy situation. This could not be more apparent when visiting the mountains in California, and the folks from the Bay and Central valley are slipping and sliding everywhere. Many of you will find this repetitive, but some people honestly do not have a clue how to drive in the snow. Here are are few pointers for those who are not used to the snow (in no particular order):

1. Slow Down - I can't stress this enough. If you think you're going too fast, you are. No one is going to get pissed off in a snowstorm if you are going slow. Drive to your abilities and maintain a constant safe speed.


2. Back Off - Double the normal distance you would have between cars, if not more, and do not tailgate. Also, if you feel like someone is too close to your rear bumper, wait for a safe place to pull over, and let them by. No sense is getting nervous or worked up over it, you need to be focused on your car, not the guy behind you.

3. Be Patient - Don't expect to get anywhere fast and don't drive unless you have to. Getting worked up and stressed will only cause your judgement to be impaired.

4. Snow Tires Do Not Make You Immune to Wrecks - Sure your Accord has snow tires, but that does not mean you should drive like you are on dry pavement. Refer back to tip #1

5. Learn your vehicle - If you have an opportunity, find a safe, snow covered, empty parking lot and get to know your car. Know how long it takes you to stop from 30-0, how it steers, how it accelerates, etc. If you have a big enough lot, cut it sideways and get a feel for how your car reacts in a spin. This is your time to practice without consequence.


6. If you wreck, pull over and get to a safe place - A couple years back I witnessed a wreck on the Mass pike during a wicked storm. As I pulled over to help, I noticed the road I thought was pavement was all ice. I pulled off about 100 yards past the wreck and ran to the wrecked vehicle to check on the couple inside. It was a nasty crash; Airbags deployed, and the car ended up in the breakdown lane, but the driver and his wife were only shaken, not hurt. I told them to get out of the car and on the other side of the guardrail, much to their dismay. Just as they exited, 2 other cars that were trying to slow down collided and hit the guardrail about 20 yards down the road. Needless to say...find a safe place if you crash or breakdown in the snow

7. Be prepared with supplies - I have a duffel bag that I keep in my car with 1 gallon of water, a small shovel, gloves, a winter hat, a fleece jacket, a blanket, and a couple road flares. This stuff comes in handy.


8. Don't be distracted - Driving with a phone to your ear is dangerous enough. Turn off and put away anything that might distract you. You need 100% of your focus to be on driving.

Anything I forgot? Feel free to comment

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