Five Simple Strategies For Driving In Snow

Five simple strategies that might help if you’re driving in snow and ice.

1. Turning, stopping, and starting are problems. Going in a straight line is not. You can go fast in a straight line as long as any movement of the steering wheel or brake pedal is done with care. No sudden movements! Because starting is a problem don’t stop where you or those behind you won’t be able to start again, such as on a hill.

2. Centripetal force is what keeps you going wanting to go in a straight line, off into the ditch or parked cars, while you are trying to go around a corner. Your tires fight this with traction, but when it’s slick you might just keep going straight despite where you’ve pointed the wheels. Give yourself more time to react by maximizing the space between you and whatever you’re going to fly off into. On a multi-lane road position yourself in the lane least likely to send you into the ditch. On a single lane get to one side or another. Ditto for cloverleaf on & off ramps.

3. Turning requires traction. Braking requires traction. Turning and braking require a lot of traction. You cannot brake and turn simultaneously when it is slippery. Slow down to turn, and while you are turning keep your foot on the gas because…

4. …often the only way to steer when sliding is with the use of power. Front wheel drive and many four wheel drive vehicles will respond positively to a “point and shoot” strategy. Point where you want to go and step on the gas. People often go for the brakes when they start sliding, but they forget that if there is no traction to turn braking isn’t going to be effective, either. Think: if you’re sliding your current strategy isn’t working. Try something else.

5. The best way to learn how to be calm when it’s slippery out is practice. Find a mall parking lot, free of things you can collide with, before they plow. Practice starting and stopping rapidly. Practice turning. Practice braking and turning. Try to get the car to slide. Try to fight the traction control, then shut it off and see how you do on your own. Put the vehicle into four wheel drive and see how easy it is to get all four wheels loose. Is your car a “point and shoot” or do you need to do something else? If you’ve practiced the situation in a safe environment you’ll be better prepared to handle it for real.

I know a bunch of you do drive in inclement conditions, too. Let me know if I’ve missed something.

8 thoughts on “Five Simple Strategies For Driving In Snow”

  1. Those are all excellent points, and I can’t stress 5 strongly enough. Don’t assume you can handle it, go practice!

    Oh, and 4×4 does NOT make you invincible, and doesn’t help with braking or steering at all. Its good for starting and some additional traction…if you think you can handle the Glenn Highway(Mat-Su Valley to Anchorage) at 80mph after 6 inchs of snowfall just because you have 4×4, be sure you have the cash to get towed out of the ditch because you WILL end up there.

  2. Oh yeah, my 4×4 Jeep is super easy to get into trouble with. Step on the gas and the 4.7L V8 breaks all four wheels loose and you go sliding.

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