Winter driving takes special skills and often a modified setup for your car. Prepare for the season, think ahead and don't panic. And for starters, avoid the following ten mistakes.
10.) Go Out Without Practice
Empty parking lots. Mountain roads. Without endangering anybody including yourself, go out there and practice. Winter driving is something they don't teach you when you get your license. Unless you live in Finland.
It is good to practice vehicle control. And the slippery surface make it a low speed maneuver. So people really should take advantage of optimal drift conditions.
This is my first year I experienced driving in the snow so I made sure to practice driving in a big snowy parking lot for a while. Totally worth it as far as learning how easy it is to lose control or slide, plus it was a ton of fun to slide around in the snow.
9.) Leave Traction Control On
You might think traction control is great when the roads are slippery (and it is!), but it's quite the opposite if you got into stuck
Northern VT and Boston MA are my home, I have a lot of snow driving experience. This is my first winter with my Focus St. I mounted Goodyear UltraGrip Ice / Snow. on dedicated rims and I was relatively shocked regarding how much traction control is a bit of burden when starting on an incline or making it up a long grade at slow speed.
Perhaps I am alone in thinking this but snow tires with traction control on aren't as useful as turning the TC off while attempting to make it up a grade. Forget about making it up a hill if you have stopped, it will start and then just sorta stop. Traction control off (but ESP still on) is a marvelous thing.
You start sliding. You brake hard on snow. You crash.
You start sliding. You oversteer on ice. You crash.
You have a second to make a decision and you have to fight instincts. Turn into a skid and attempt a donut can be safer than trying to course correct. Sometimes you have to make a choice to hit the car next to you or put the car in a ditch in order to avoid oncoming traffic. Finally, trust your newer car's technology to save your ass. ABS and ESP work beautifully if the driver doesn't fight against them.
You don't see the bumper sticker that says "if you can read this you're too close"? Good. You're not supposed to.
In fact, stay back even further.
6.) Leave Snow On Your Car
That massive crash in your mirror? Well, that's due to the snow from your roof blinding everybody behind.
On top of that, if said person stops or slows down, the snow slides over the windshield. There goes visibility, here comes panic.
5.) Go Too Slow For The Conditions
Slow and safe don't always meet, as CalzoneGolem explains:
Go 20 in a 55 when there is no call for it.
When shit's bad go slow. I'm fully behind slowing to a safe speed.
When you're on a clear asphalt you can go the speed limit even if it snowed this morning. If you are so timid about the snow please just stay home. Some other asshole is going to get so pissed off that they will need to pass you. Here's a top tip. If there are lots of people behind you and no one behind you, find a place to safely pull over and let them past.
4.) Leave Everything To AWD
Bought a Subaru, some SUV or a Quattro? Guess what! AWD won't save you if you don't respect the conditions. It's nothing new, but remains very true.
3.) Use Summer Tires
Yes, you can use summer tires in the winter. They will stop the car. At some point, somewhere.
Winter tires aren't just for snowy climes where it regularly goes sub-zero. The fact is, summer tires are like hockey pucks below about 40 degrees F. All-seasons are acceptable for a lot of people, but even then, a dedicated winter tire will still outperform it, and ultra high-performance all seasons will work somewhat poorly in snow and ice.
2.) Leave Your Lights Off
Visibility suddenly changes for the worse during a snowfall. Push the switch, turn the knob, shine like a Christmas tree.
White out conditions. Guess how many cars had their lights on. About 50% of them. I flashed my lights at every idiot driving without them. You can barely see in front of you so lets be even more difficult to see to those around you by not having your lights on.
1.) Speed In Bad Conditions
Going 70 mph in a 70 mph zone is fine on a sunny day if you're a confident driver. But not when the conditions are far from optimal. Don't risk it, speed kills on an icy road.
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Top Photo Credit: Oregon DOT