Depending on your skills as a driver, winter driving is either the best or the worst thing to happen to you. I’m someone who spent most of my driving life in Texas only to then move up to the northeast, and I decided that I hated driving in the snow enough to just marry a Canadian and let him do all the hard work for me. But if don’t have a permanent bad weather driver at your disposal then you’re in luck, because Team O’Neil Rally School has put together a great video explaining the basics of winter driving in a way that actually makes sense.
I say “actually makes sense” because it can be easy to get lost in the technicalities of some explainers. Wyatt Knox breaks it down pretty simply, the way you’d hope someone would explain to your kid the first time they get behind the wheel in the snow.
Knox makes a damn good point right off the bat. There are three things that factor making a successful trip: your limits as a driver, the limits of the car, and the limits of the road. Exceed the limits of just one of those things, and you can expect a crash. It’s all about balance here.
When it comes to your own limits, Knox advises paying attention. Seriously. Just pay attention—even more than you normally would! We’re talking no music, no talking on the phone, no driving while tired. Crack the windows to listen to the sound the tires. Hell, even check the weather forecast and make sure you’re able to anticipate everything that’s coming your way.
Honestly, paying attention is easily number one. The only crash I’ve ever had was in Iceland, when I was jetlagged and physically exhausted from climbing up a volcano first thing upon arrival. On the way to my hotel for the night, I turned too quickly onto a gravel road and slid right into a ditch. And that wasn’t even with any rain or snow thrown in the mix. If I’d been paying slightly more attention, that whole situation wouldn’t have happened.
If you’re inexperienced, it can be tough to know what the limits of both the road and the car are. This is where practice—aka, going out to an empty parking lot and cruising around in all different types of conditions—comes in handy. You might think you know what you’re doing, but if you’ve only ever experienced driving in slush, you could be in for a surprise when the road is doused in fluffy, new snow or hard-packed snow. Once you’ve sorted out the basics, then just get out and drive. Practice. You’ll never get better if you never practice!
And, yes—screwing up is part of the process. It’s tough to know exactly what your limits are until you exceed them.
If you’re looking for some new tips or a new way of thinking about winter driving, this is the video for you.