It’s that time of the year again, and your driveway, the neighborhood you live in, the whole city is knee deep in snow every other day.
And with snow comes a great deal of trouble for motorists; getting around on snowy, icy roads is always a great challenge.
Sadly though, one cannot control snowfall to have it fall straight off the road, so the problem is forever present during the snowy season (barring the brief recesses given by snow plows).
What one can do, however, is learn to drive safer on these roads, and these 12 tips for driving on ice and snow will tell you just how:
1. Don’t drive if you can help it
Although this does seem counter-intuitive and contradictory to your objective, not driving at all in snowy conditions is the best way to stay safe.
You may be a great driver in the snow, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is too (and even the best of us sometimes get screwed over because of icy roads) and won’t crash into you.
So, the bottom line is, unless you have to drive, don’t.
Watch the snow fall from your window with a hot cup of coffee to keep you warm instead. Much better than driving out in the cold.
2. Pre-journey inspection
While inspecting your car before every journey is important, no matter the season, it is especially imperative you perform these inspections every time you before you drive your car in snowy conditions.
Before and after every drive, check your exhaust for snow, or else it’ll clog up your pipe and cause smoke to enter the passenger cabin.
Check your tires, engine, and gas before setting off; breaking down in the middle of a snowing road is NOT something to look forward to.
3. Watch your acceleration
Although this may be tricky in the first few days, make it a habit of accelerating and decelerating at a slower pace in snowy conditions.
This is because accelerating faster or powering through may just cause your tires to slip over the snow instead of gaining traction over them, and you either won’t get anywhere gunning the throttle, or you won’t be able to slow down when you want to while driving.
And either case wouldn’t suit you on the road.
4. Drive slowly
Besides making sure you accelerate slower, you also need to make sure you never drive too fast in icy conditions.
The ice on the road reduces the friction between your tires and the road immensely, so speeding up in these conditions becomes an extremely risky maneuver.
You need more time for everything, be it steering, turning around corners, stopping for traffic lights, etc. so the best way to achieve that is to start slow and keep it that way throughout your journey.
The ten minutes saved on the road by speeding up aren’t worth your life anyway.
5. Inertia is your friend
Don’t stop on the road if you can’t help it; let inertia carry you through and through even if you need to slow down at a traffic light.
Moving after stopping fully takes a lot more force from your engine than speeding up after slowing down (Static friction vs Dynamic friction, Applied Physics 101) and ice on the road only compounds to this effect, so try to keep rolling while on the road for as long as you can, as far as you can.
You’ll be saving yourself a lot of trouble on the road by keeping this little tip in mind.
6. When traveling upon hills
Inertia is your friend, and nowhere do you need this friend more to bail you out than when traveling up a hill.
Stopping a hill halfway in snowy conditions is a big mistake and will only leave you with the option of reversing slowly back to the base of the hill where you started (if you’re lucky that is).
Powering through the snow in the middle of the hill won’t do you any good since your tires will only skid through the snow instead of gaining traction (again).
So, try and get a good deal of inertia before heading up a hill (though not too much of course) and on reaching the top descend at a slow, cautionary pace.
7. Eyes wide and sharp
Snowy conditions make it harder to drive not just for you, but for everyone else on the road too.
So even if you do manage to drive safely, there’s no telling when a car that loses control on ice may come and slam into yours.
However, it takes two bad drivers to make an accident, so if you’re vigilant enough, you can almost always find a way to save yourself from getting caught in the crosshairs of fate.
8. Don’t drive fatigued
You can’t drive well if you can barely keep your eyes open, now can you? Don’t drive if you’re tired; it’s as simple as that.
Driving is already a focus-intensive task sans ice on the road, so attempting to drive out in the snow when you’re half asleep would be synonymous to asking for trouble.
And those who ask for trouble shouldn’t be surprised if they are visited by it.
9. If snowed in
Sometimes bad things just happen, and there is no way to avoid them. Your car may break down in the middle of a snowy road one afternoon. And as luck would have it, you may be facing an oncoming snowstorm, with no help for miles to see.
In that case, it’d be better to stay inside your car and hope for rescue than freeze to death looking for help.
Stay cozy in your car and light up the car dome light and hazard lights. Someone will come your way eventually.
10. Car maintenance in the winter
This point cannot be emphasized on enough: You have to keep your car in tip-top shape to be able to travel safely in snowy conditions.
Use antifreeze, check and maintain tire pressure, unclog and clean exhausts, change your oil, tune your brakes.
In short, do everything you can to make sure your car does not break down in the middle of the road or cause any problems on your journey.
11. Know your brakes
Unless you have a relatively old car, your brakes are probably of the anti-lock kind that doesn’t skid on snow when pressed hard.
This is good since it helps you break easier on snowy roads, but one still needs to know the proper way of doing so.
Unlike with the older brakes, you need to apply constant pressure on your brakes to stop with anti-lock brakes, and let the vehicle do the rest.
But still, it’s better just to stay rolling. You never really know if you’ll have traction for braking on icy roads anyway.
12. Winter tires aren’t magic
Don’t be too trusting of winter tires.
Yes, they’re designed to give you a better grip in icy conditions and are made of a better rubber material with more effective groove cuts, but reckless driving can render all of these buffs null and void.
Do invest in winter tires since they do help, but don’t get careless and think of them as fail-safes in case of an accident.