Sunday, February 8, 2015

Driving in the Winter

The weather lately has been begging for a blog post about driving in the snow. Apparently, even though we get snow every year,  people from around here don't have a clue how to drive in any amount of snow. A light dusting leads some to drive 30 on I-87. What baffles me the most is people from Vermont who have no idea how to drive in the Snow. Like, doesn't it snow all year round up there?! JK 

So out of my frustration, I wish to share some of my (mostly common sense) winter driving tips.

  • Winter roads can be slippery. Don't slam on the brakes. Ever. 
You won't stop as fast as you think you will, and you'll probably end up turned around the other way and in a snowbank. For normal stops (stop signs, traffic lights, and turns) ease onto the brake a number of car-lengths away.
  • If you start sliding, don't slam on the brake!
If you start drifting or fishtailing, don't slam on your brake (see previous tip). If you don't have ABS, "pump" your brake, using short rapid pushes onto the pedal, while straightening your steering wheel. Always steer in the direction you wish to go.
  • Don't accelerate too fast.
Similar to my first point, don't accelerate like you would in normal conditions. The roads are probably slushy or slippery and your wheels are likely to take a couple seconds to catch the pavement. If you push down on the accelerator too much at once, you're likely to start spinning, losing control of your direction as your car searches for stable ground.
  • Highway driving.
Highway driving can be difficult in a snow storm. Depending on how bad the highway's conditions are you will have to adapt your driving technique. When there is only a dusting and no ice, please try to drive at almost the normal speed. Going 30 when everyone else is safely going 65 is extremely dangerous. It's safer to keep with traffic if the road isn't bad.
If the roads are slippery and you must drive, this is the time to go slower. Depending on how heavily traveled the road is during the storm, certain parts of the lane(s) will be free from snow, giving you the opportunity to use the bare road for traction. Do it. Also, in between lanes is often a row of slush or slippery snow. Avoid changing lanes unless necessary, and when you do change lanes, let off your accelerator and do not brake. Glide through the slush slowly and gradually. No need to swerve, as that's how you'll start to spin and lose control.

  • Clear off your car.
No need to be a traveling snow bank. A simple tool called a snow brush can be purchased for less than $10 and is easily portable. Simply put it in your hand, and sweep it over your car to remove snow. Works like MAGIC!
Really though. It's dangerous to be driving with two feet of snow piled on your car. It's gonna fly off at some point, and probably will hit another car. If there's that much snow, a small brush might not work so well, but I've found that a snow shovel works wonders and is also easily obtainable.
Similarly, make sure you clean the snow off your headlights and taillights so that other drivers can see you!
  • Avoid stopping when possible.
It's a lot harder to get moving in the snow than it is to keep moving (Newton's 1st Law of Motion, anyone?). If you can avoid stopping (especially going uphill!), do so. If not, see the third tip.

Driving in the snow isn't that hard. It just takes some common sense and a little knowledge of physics. Please don't be an idiot driver.

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