Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Driving Tips from a Yankee

Even though the worst of the storm is over, after talking to Drew yesterday, I thought it might help to share some advice with you about how to drive in winter conditions. When you're used to it, it's not so scary, but when you're not, it can be awful. I hope the following helps.
CLEAN OFF YOUR WHOLE CAR. You need total visibility, and huge chunks of snow falling off your car can be a problem for other drivers. Speaking of visibility, use your headlights. Others will be able to see you better.
SLOW DOWN. Way down. Leave early so you have time to get where you're going safely.
LEAVE EXTRA ROOM between you and the car ahead of you. If they skid, you need time to react. Leave twice as much room as you think you need. Also, not everyone on the road is as cautious or smart as you are.
FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE: On snow and ice, go slowly, no matter what type of vehicle you drive. Even if you have an SUV with four-wheel drive you may not be able to stop any faster, or maintain control any better, once you lose traction. Four-wheel drive may get you going faster, but it won’t help you stop sooner.
USE YOUR ENGINE, not your brakes, to control your speed. If you drive standard transmission, all the better. If you don't drive stick, most cars still have a lower gear (3, 2, or L for really slow speeds). Use it, and slow down by letting your foot off the gas.
USE WELL-TRAVELED LANES. Even if there's more traffic, there's likely to be less ice.
BRIDGES FREEZE FIRST. If you can plan an alternate route around bridges and overpasses, use it.
IF YOU HIT ICE, DON'T PANIC! Do not brake if you can help it. Keep your speed consistent, or take your foot off the gas, but don't brake.
BRAKING CAN BE TRICKY. Learn how to get maximum efficiency from your brakes before an emergency. It's easy to properly use antilock brakes: Stomp, stay and steer. Stomp on the pedal as if you were trying to snap it off. Stay hard on the pedal. Steer around the obstacle. A little bit of steering goes a very long way: be gentle. If you drive on icy roads or roads that are covered with snow, modify your ABS technique: After you "Stomp" and the ABS begins cycling — you will feel pulses in the pedal or hear the system working — ease up slightly on the pedal until the pulsing happens only once a second.
For vehicles without ABS, you'll have to rely on the old-fashioned system: You. For non-ABS on a mixed-surface road, push the brake pedal hard until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to begin turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly. This is not the same as "pumping the brake." Your goal is to have the tires producing maximum grip regardless of whether the surface is snow, ice or damp pavement. None of this works on ice, generally speaking, but it works on snow. Don't brake on ice!
STEER INTO A SKID. If you start to skid, steer GENTLY in the direction of the skid. This means if the back of your car is skidding toward your right, turn the wheel gently toward the right. Try not to brake (see above).
STAY IN YOUR CAR if you're in an accident. If other cars are skidding, they could hit you. If worse comes to worst, it's better they hit you when you're surrounded by metal.
Be safe out there, folks. Nothing is worth your life.

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