Don’t Let Winter Roads Catch You Off Guard: Winter Driving Tips

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Hailie Sandor, Staff Photographer

As the snow starts to fall this winter season and the roads start to cover with a blanket of white, drivers everywhere should take notice and adjust driving habits accordingly.

The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you can at all avoid it. Don’t go out until the snow plows and salt trucks have had a chance to get out on the roads and clear what they can. By allowing yourself extra time to reach your destination, you won’t feel as rushed this holiday season allowing for safer travels.

For many teens, this year will be their first season of driving in winter conditions. It’s helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot or on roads that are uncontested. This allows you to familiarize with how your car handles. Consult your owner’s manual for tips specific to your vehicle for things such as short wheel bases or front wheel drive.

Here are some tips as per the locally owned Ultimate Defensive Driving school.  For driving safely on wintry roads, drivers should follow these simple guidelines:

•Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
•Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
•Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
•Keep your lights and windshield clean.
•Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
•Don’t use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
•Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges.
•Don’t pass snow plows and salt trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you’re likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
•Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.

A lot of people have trouble with skidding off the road because they lose control of their vehicle. If you follow these guidelines it will help you gain back control while driving.

•Take your foot off the accelerator.
•Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.
•If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
•If you have standard brakes, pump them gently. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse and this is normal for that feature.

Getting stuck along the side of the road is also a common occurrence in bad conditions there are some tips for getting stuck buy for most teens it’s just better to call your parents first.

•Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
•Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
•Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.
•Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
•Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.