From the last snow of early spring, to the first snow of late autumn, it seems that many drivers develop amnesia regarding how to safely drive in winter weather. Inevitably, when the first snowstorm blankets the roadways there is an inordinate number of weather related motor vehicle crashes. The following will provide you with some easy-to-follow driving strategies that will help to keep you safe during the winter driving season.
When driving with ideal dry road conditions, a proper following distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you is three-seconds. This is how it works: When the rear of the vehicle in front of you passes a mark, (This can be a sign along the road, a tar strip on the road or any other distinguishable point of reference that you can find.) start counting – one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three. If the front of your vehicle reaches the mark before one thousand three, you are too close.
As stated, the three-second rule applies when driving on dry roads. You need to increase your following distance with each worsening weather condition.
For wet road conditions your following distance should now increase to six seconds. If this sounds like too much, try to stop on that wet road surface. Stopping distance on a wet road is twice the normal distance. That is why your following distance must double.
If it begins to snow, and there is light accumulation on the road surface, your following distance should now increase to seven to eight seconds. Again, this is to compensate for reduced traction due to the weather conditions.
If the road becomes completely snow covered, or if there is ice, park your vehicle. There are three ways that you control your vehicle – steering, braking and accelerating. If you are on a snow covered, or ice covered surface, you cannot control any of these. Even if you think that you can control your own vehicle, what will stop somebody from losing control and sliding into you?
There are basically three types of skids that drivers experience. They are – four-wheel skids, understeers and oversteers. The manner in which you handle these skids is as follows:
- The Four Wheel Skid – This skid occurs only with cars equipped with standard brakes. In this situation the driver applies too much pressure on the brake pedal causing the tires to lock up. The easiest way to recover from this skid is to release a slight amount of pressure from the brake pedal. Do not release all of the pressure. Release just enough to get out of the skid. Releasing all of the pressure wastes valuable time and stopping distance. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), you need not worry about this type of skid. The ABS will not allow the vehicle to go into an extended skid. ABS is standard equipment on today’s vehicles.
- The Understeer – In this type of skid the car is “plowing out” and will not turn. This situation usually occurs when you are attempting to negotiate a curve. In this type of skid you must remember not to steer too much. If you turn the wheel and the car doesn’t react, your initial reaction is to turn the wheel even more. If you regain traction and your front tires are turned to the far left or right, you may become involved in a secondary skid that could be far worse than the initial skid. Limit your steering and slow down as much as possible. You do not want to apply a great amount of pressure on the brake, stab lightly at the brake in an attempt to bleed off some of the speed and get the car under control. Be sure to look where you want to go, not where you are going. Buy focusing on where you want to go you will react. If you focus on the area that you are sliding towards, you will freeze. Use your eyes properly here.
- The Oversteer – In this situation the rear of your car comes up to say hello to the front of your car. This is commonly referred to as the “fishtail”. The old suggestion of steering into the skid is absolutely true in this situation. For instance, if the rear of your car is spinning to the left, turn your wheel to the left. Your first objective is to get the car straight. After that is accomplished, make sure that you recover the steering. In other words, don’t keep the wheel turned to the left after the car is straight. Bring the wheel back to center to keep the car under control.
The most common cause for foul-weather related crashes is speed. It would seem that slowing down when there is bad weather would be common sense. The problem is that many drivers allow the same amount of time to travel to a destination no matter what the conditions. As a result, they will travel at the same speed whether the road is dry, or whether the road is slippery. Keep an eye on weather reports. If they are calling for bad weather be sure that you plan accordingly. Get up earlier so that you can allow more time to arrive at your destinations. If you are running late for an appointment, safely park your vehicle and call ahead. Calling ahead accomplishes several things: 1. The person you are calling may appreciate the fact that you were courteous enough to call and let them know you are running late. 2. It takes the pressure off. When you are running late it seems that every light is red, the traffic is heavier, and you get behind a school bus that stops every fifteen feet. Calling ahead eliminates these pressures. 3. Calling ahead may also help you realize that the person with whom you have the appointment does not want to see you taking risks just so that you can get there on time. Nothing is so important that you can’t adjust your driving according to the conditions so that you arrive safely.
Other Points To Remember
The following bullet points provide additional pointers that will help to keep you safe:
- Don’t get overconfident with Four/All Wheel Driver vehicles – Four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive will help you gain better traction when starting out. However, this will not help you stop. If the road is slippery drive slow and leave a lot of space between you and the vehicle in front of you.
- Scan far ahead when driving in bad weather. You should always scan ahead so that you can react to situations sooner, rather than later. This is especially true in bad weather where, because of slippery road conditions, you will need extra space and time to maneuver or stop your vehicle in order to avoid a collision.
- Do your braking before you enter a curve or turn. Again, this is a strategy that should be done all of the time, but it is especially important on a slippery road surface. If you apply the brakes heavily while you are attempting to turn, the weight shift created by the braking may cause your vehicle to slide. By scanning ahead you can anticipate when you need to slow down. This will help you avoid having to apply the brakes while in a turning motion.
In summary, slow down, increase your following distance according to the road conditions, scan ahead and react appropriately if you do become involved in a skid. Applying these strategies may help you avoid winter driving collisions. Always remember that the most important task you accomplish every day is arriving home safely
Provided By: Advanced Driver Training Services (ADTS) www.adtsweb.com.