Everyone thinks they’re a great driver until winter (or the law of averages) hits. Then, a bunch of people slide into the ditch and blame other people for it. So, whether you’re a new driver, or an experienced one, you should read these winter driving tips.
In ideal driving conditions, you’re supposed to leave a following distance of four seconds between yourself and the car in front of you. But you don’t leave a following distance of four seconds, do you? Winter driving demands that you increase your following distance to seven or eight seconds. That’s the only way you’ll have enough space to stop in the event of a sudden obstruction. Finally, for the sake of Peter, drive slowly!
Winter Driving? Winter Tires
Get winter tires. It’s that simple. When the temperature falls below 7 °C, winter tires perform better than three-season tires. And when the temperature falls below zero, three-season tires becomes patently dangerous. Why? Three-season tires are comprised of stiff rubber that doesn’t become soft in high summer temperatures. Inversely, winter tires feature soft rubber that is pliable in extreme cold. On top of that, winter tires have aggressive tread patterns that cut through snow. Still don’t believe me?
- Consumer Reports research shows that winter tires have over 25% better snow traction and 15% shorter stopping distances on ice than three-seasons.
- The Tire and Rubber Association of Canada estimates that winter tires offer 50% better traction in winter conditions.
- A German study demonstrated that even economy winter tires have a 25% shorter braking distance in winter.
- An Ontario study found that 26% of collisions were attributable to the absence of winter tires.
Pump the Brakes: Don’t Pump the Brakes
You’ve probably heard a ton of conflicting information about braking in icy conditions. But it’s pretty simple. I’m going to assume you have ABS. If you lose traction on slippery pavement, press your brakes down firmly and don’t release them until you’ve regained control. If you have Electronic Stability Control (as all vehicles manufactured after September 2011 do) then you can even turn the steering wheel to the direction you want to travel, and the system will apply braking power to the correct wheels to make that happen.
Losing grip completely, as you would on black ice, demands a different strategy – ESC or not. When you’re going over black ice, don’t hit the brakes. Simply take your foot off the accelerator and wait until you’ve passed over the patch of ice (usually they aren’t greater than a few square metres). Jamming on the brakes and turning the steering wheel will give you even less control and increase the likelihood that your car makes a sudden, unpredictable maneuver as soon as it hits drier pavement.
If you’re going to be driving on the highway, make sure you check the highway hotline or a similar service before heading out. When the highway is icy, or visibility is poor due to blowing snow, it may be better to cancel your plans. First, the chance of a dangerous accident increases. If it’s hard to stop, maneuver, and see, you’re more likely to get in a collision – it’s that simple. But that’s not the only danger of extreme winter driving.
If conditions are dangerous for you, then they’re also dangerous for emergency services. While you’re waiting at the side of the road or in the ditch, it may be difficult for a tow truck to get to you. Try to wait inside your vehicle, but only run the engine for around ten minutes per hour in order to keep the heat up while conserving fuel. Also, make sure the tailpipe is not clogged so you aren’t breathing in exhaust fumes. Hopefully you’ve also packed some essential supplies. Which brings us to the next tip.
You never know when you might get stuck out in the cold, so it’s important to remain prepared. Which is why it’s important that you put a safety kit in your vehicle. What should you include in your safety kit? You need some gear for staying warm, blankets, ski pants, boots, and gloves. You should also have a shovel and maybe even some sand to dig yourself out. If you’re really serious, you may even include road flares, food, water, and a knife in your winter safety kit.