In light of recent wintery weather finally arriving in my city of residence, I figured now would be a good time to talk a bit about driving in bad weather.
This is a tricky one. It really all depends on the vehicle you have and the exact driving conditions you’re in. If you’re in an all-wheel drive Subaru with studded snow tires, you’re basically the epitome of winter vehicle. If you’re in a Camry with balding all-seasons, you should stay home.
The number one rule in bad weather driving is do not tailgate. Well, that and maybe go slow, but I cannot express how important maintaining a good following distance is. You cannot stop as quickly in snowy weather, and you cannot maneuver as quickly in snowy weather.
The second rule is do things gradually. This is my weakness. Gradually apply pressure to the accelerator, and gradually apply pressure to the brakes. Trying to speed up to quickly will just cause the wheels to spin in place and you’ll slide or not go anywhere. Applying the brakes too quickly will cause you to slide as well because you’re not giving the tires a chance to catch on to something to slow down.
Rule number three is don’t drive like an idiot. Everyone always says, “Be careful! People are driving like idiots out there.” I wonder if the people that are actually doing the knucklehead driving say this as well? Just drive normally (well, a slower normally). Drive at a speed that is comfortable for you, but not too slow to the point that people are getting pissed at you (or just chill in the right lane with your hazard lights on). Be on extra alert for any changes in environment, handling, and traction–then adjust accordingly. No need to panic because there happens to be precipitation falling from the sky.
The fourth rule could be don’t panic. If you lose traction, don’t start flailing, hitting every pedal your feet can touch at one time, and ripping the steering wheel from one side to the other… unless you’re in a parking lot and having some fun. Out on the roads, stay calm. What’s that thing going around? Keep calm and carry on? Keep calm and drive on.
Then there are just some general knowledge things to remember when driving in wintery conditions.
a.) Don’t drive too close to a truck that’s salting the roads.
b.) Drive in the same track as the person ahead of you. This at least gets you closer to pavement. Just don’t focus solely on staying in their tracks, though. Keep in mind your surroundings.
c.) Things get more slippery at night. Those tracks I just talked about? If the roads aren’t salted, those can get pretty icy at night. Less people driving on it means less heat and nighttime means colder conditions, so those wet tracks become ice tracks. I think, but don’t quote me on this, that in those situations, moving off the tracks and into the snow (given your tire condition and driving ability) is better. Either way, go slow.
d.) In near white out conditions, find a constant on the road that you can follow to make sure you maintain your position and stay on the road. I experienced this when I was driving home through a snowstorm in Virginia. The roads were pretty much covered. I had to keep an eye on the reflective while on the right side of the road to make sure I stayed on the road and in my lane. Thankfully there weren’t many people, but there were also no streetlights on long stretches of that journey so my headlights and the road were all I really had. Heaps of fun. Driving slow, keeping tabs on surroundings, and tracing the white line were all important factors in me getting home safely.
e.) Areas between lanes are slippery. Always be very very very careful when changing lanes in snowy conditions.
f.) Keep to the main roads. Side streets are often not plowed or salted and are therefore very treacherous to drive on. If you must travel on a road that is not plowed or treated, drive slowly. It’s safer to drive slowly on side streets because there is less traffic and less people to rear-end you for going slow.
g.) I’ve always been told not to stop in a snowstorm. I’ve also heard that if conditions are bad enough, you should pull as far off the road as you safely can and leave your hazard lights on to let people know you’re there. Stopping sounds like an all around bad idea–you can get stuck/buried, someone can run off the road and hit you, and it’s a little dangerous to try to pull off the road when you can’t see where the road really is. Keep moving forward, if it’s bad enough move forward very slowly, maintaining proper distances between the car ahead of you, and staying calm.
–Most of the stuff that applies to snow applies to heavy thunderstorms as well. In torrential downpours, have the wipers going as fast as you can and look out for anything with lights. Look for the brake lights of the cars ahead of you to judge distance. Do not go faster than you are comfortable, but keep up with the flow of traffic. Don’t make any sudden movements if you happen to hydroplane (hydroplaning is totally fun, I don’t know why everyone freaks out about it). Keep calm and drive on. If you want to wait out the storm, exit the highway or roadway and chill in a parking lot until you’re okay with the conditions.
I couldn’t resist:
***If I’m forgetting anything, feel free to let me know and I’ll add it to the list.***