Anyone who lives where it snows knows that winter driving it the worse type of driving there is! Bad weather accounts for roughly 1.5 million car accidents here in the U.S. per year. Out of those 1.5 million well over half if caused by winter and icy weather. Even with such high statistics, people still have an over bearing of confidence in themselves and their vehicles. Cockiness and a false sense of trust in their cars is one of the leading causes in winter accidents; just because the speed limit is 55mph does NOT mean that is the mandatory speed needed to be maintained during all conditions. To avoid being part of a winter statistic, here is some common winter driving mistakes that can easily be corrected to improve your snowy driving experience this season.
#5. 4WD & AWD DOES NOT mean you’re bullet proof.
The myth people have been saying for years is that if your vehicle is equipped with 4WD or has AWD you are excluded from cautious driving in the ice and snow, WRONG! 4WD only helps when stuck in high snow/ice in low speeds, but once on the road and past 15mph, every vehicle is the same. Another myth is that just because all four tires are receiving power, that you’ll have more traction and control. WRONG again! AWD & 4WD has no impact on handling once the car is driving. It doesn’t give “extra” traction for braking, or “extra” traction for steering. The best thing to do for winter is allow enough travel time, DO NOT RUSH, and remember to have patience with others on the road.
#4. Be prepared for ANYTHING!
Winter is full of the unexpected, unexpected weather and unexpected road conditions and back-ups, so being prepared is a must! Before the weather gets too bad or you’re stuck in a rough situation, make sure you go over this simple check list to make sure you and your vehicle are prepared.
- Check tire pressure and tread; consider snow tires if tread is bad
- Check antifreeze and windshield fluid levels are filled
- Check engine belts for wear-and-tear
- Check battery; make sure you’re not cutting it close on the life of the battery
- Check that both front and rear defrosts work properly
- Make sure to have an ice scrapper in the vehicle
- Keep a set of jumper cables in the trunk
- Make sure to have a flash light (with extra batteries) on hand
- Consider keeping a blanket/extra gloves/ winter boots in your vehicle
#3. Follow the leader…
With younger drivers on the road, or everyone being late for something, we live in a world where we are always rushing and moving to get to our next place in the fastest way possible. When the weather starts cooling down and the roads become slick, slow and steady always wins in the long run. Many don’t realize that your brakes have not changed because of the season, but your braking HABITS should; that also goes for tailgating as well. Allow at least enough space between you and the car in front of you to make safe braking and steering adjustments if necessary. When leaving your house, test steering and braking down a local road at a safe speed to get a “feel” for how your vehicle reacts to the road conditions.
#2. Slamming on the brakes
Icy roads and snowy streets can make anyone want to be a hermit during the winter season, but just because the roads might look bad, doesn’t mean it has to end in disaster. It’s easy to panic when you feel your vehicle spill on a patch of ice but the right braking techniques can help any situation. Instead of panicking, stay calm and hold the wheel firmly, ease off the gas and let the car slow down. DO NOT OVER CORRECT the wheel, that will just lead to more trouble. Hard force on the brakes removes all traction from the tires, in turn taking away your control of the vehicle. Another concern most people will encounter during the winter is sliding while turning, where most accidents occur. With a few helpful hints you can turn with ease. When turning in snow always remember:
- When approaching the corner, start to slow down (brake)
- Once you start to turn the wheel, let the momentum of your vehicle take you through the corner.
- Once three quarters of the way through the turn, start to accelerate.
#1. Under estimating Mother Nature’s power
Many people believe, no matter what season it is, that speed limits are the minimum of what all people on the road should be driving. During winter, the highway doesn’t always mean travel at least 70mph. Speed limit signs are just suggested max speed for optimal driving conditions. You should drive at a comfortable and safe speed that allows enough distance for stopping. It usually takes anywhere from 4-10 times longer to stop in snow and ice then it would on normal pavement. Also remember that even if there isn’t snow on the roads, the freezing temperatures can cause ice patches, black ice, to form on the roads, so always be cautious and aware while driving this season. Winter is the season for patience and safe driving habits.