Even the most experienced drivers can find it challenging to drive on roads covered in ice and snow. Both snow and ice reduce the traction between tires and the road, making moving, steering, and stopping a nightmare.
The winter season also comes with foggy weather and fewer daylight hours, which makes visibility a challenge.
We’ve covered safe winter driving tips before, but now, we’d like to discuss what you need to avoid when driving in this inclement weather.
1. Driving with Uninflated and Bald Tires
It’s not a surprise to see most drivers drive on snow roads low pressure tires. This can be potentially dangerous on icy roads. Here are some of the possible effects of underinflated tires:
- Increased stopping time: Not only will you take long to brake, but you will easily skid on a wet pavement
- Poor fuel economy: Low pressure tires can reduce gas mileage by approximately 0.2 percent for every one PSI fall in tire pressure, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
- Reduced tire lifespan: Underinflated tires can reduce your tires’ lifespan, making them susceptible to damage. And that means you’ll have to buy new tires, more often.
Aside from driving with underinflated tires, not checking the tire tread is another mistake drivers make.
Sometimes, the urgency or excitement of a trip can make us forget to inspect tires for any tread wear or rotate them when changing oil.
Checking the tire tread is easy: use the famous “Penny Test”.
This test involves placing a penny into the tire’s tread groove and ensuring Lincoln’s head is facing you. Ensure the top of the head isn’t visible to you. If you can see the entire head while the penny is in the groove, then you need to replace the tires.
Most importantly, check the tire pressure before leaving home. Ensure your tires have the recommended pressure before you drive. The recommended tire pressure typically falls between 30 and 35 PSI.
In addition, if you are from a place where chains are required, consider investing in a pair and practice to put them on your tires rather than waiting for an emergency so you can learn.
2. Driving Faster Than You Should
Speed limits are usually based on ideal weather conditions. That said, it’s a mistake to use the posted speed limit as your guideline when driving under winter conditions.
It’s not uncommon to be pulled over for driving faster than you should under bad weather whether you were going under the indicated speed limit or not.
Deciding on what speed limit to use requires that you be realistic regarding what may feel safe, and then reduce it even further. When driving in a snowy road, a good rule of thumb is to go at a speed that’s approximately a fourth of the typical speed for that particular area.
So, when driving in bad weather, always slow down. Give yourself more time to reach your destination if driving in the snow.
Double the Following Distance
Besides slowing down, allow for increased distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Instead of sticking to the standard following distance of 3 to 4 seconds, make it 8 to 10 seconds during winter weather. That makes stopping easier if you want to.
Don’t Brake Like Crazy
And speaking of slowing down, don’t slam on the brakes. When you realize your skidding or slipping (due to speeding), the natural reaction is to brake like crazy.
However, slamming on brakes can worsen the situation. It causes tires to lose their traction, making it even more challenging for you to control the car.
Therefore, instead of immediately slamming the brakes, starting easing off the accelerator whenever you feel the vehicle start to skid. This action will let the car slow down by itself.
If your vehicle has the anti-lock braking (ABS), brake it steadily. But if it lacks the ABS, you may pump the brakes quickly.
3. Not Being Prepared
Before going for any trip in inclement weather, try to find out how the weather might go. If possible find out how bad the weather is in your potential destination.
Snow can manifest hard and fast, rendering the roads impassable and visibility, almost impossible. Fog can appear from nowhere and sleet can do nearly the same. You might wake up on a warm and clear morning, only for ice to start forming shortly after.
A drastic temperature drop may cause ice to pile on roads. What’s more, even just a tiny patch can jeopardize your driving.
Additionally, don’t forget to bring along the accident preparedness kit. Most motorists get stranded in a car and experience hardships just because they forgot to carry an emergency kit for the winter drive.
In fact, people have lost their lives when they could have prevented it by carrying a few items on board. That said, be sure to carry:
- Extra warm clothes
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Some snacks
- Ice scraper
- Cell phone
- A first aid kit
- A flashlight
- Snow shovel
- Jumper cables
- Warm hat and gloves
4. Leaving Your Car Behind
No one wants to talk about it, but the truth is, there’s a possibility of ending up stranded in the car. If this happens, the greatest mistake you can make is to leave the vehicle to go seek help.
Unless your car is stuck in mud, covered by snow, or in unsafe conditions, your vehicle might be the only safe and warm haven. This is particularly true if you carried the emergency kit in the car.
If you have flares, put them close to the car. Remove any snow, mud, or ice from the exhaust and let the vehicle run for a couple of minutes every hour to generate warmth. By staying in a shelter, you increase the chances of survival than trying to walk around looking for help – you mind end up lost doing so.
Bad weather is enough for us to stay at home and avoid driving. However, some situations require that you go out despite the harsh conditions. Avoid making the above mistakes and you’ll be back home safe.
For more pointers on how to drive in snow or any other condition, enroll for driving classes with Pierre Paul Driving School. Safety is important at all times and our instructors know that very well.