Last night we had the first major snowfall of the season and I woke up this morning to find several inches of snow on the ground. I turned on the radio and heard what I expected to hear: traffic reports saying that there were accidents all over the place and urging drivers to exercise caution and leave more time to get to their destinations. In other words slow down!
It happens the first day of every winter. Over the summer, people seem to forget how to drive in winter and the first day of snow driving can be a real hazard. I can understand people who live in regions where it almost never snows being baffled about what to do on the rare occasions when it does. But there is no excuse for bad driving for the locals in the snow belt.
Fortunately for me personally, I have the luxury of flexible hours and so I usually wait at home until the rush hour clears and the streets have been cleaned and then drive leisurely in to work.
Here are a few simple rules for winter driving that everyone should follow, in no particular order:
- Drive more slowly than usual.
- All-wheel drive, traction control, and anti-lock brakes are good safety features but do not mean that you can thus drive as if it is still a dry, summer day.
- Just because you drive an SUV or similar vehicle does not mean that you are exempt from the laws of physics.
- Avoid abrupt changes in speed and direction because that is what causes loss of control.
- As much as possible avoid using the brake pedal and instead use the accelerator to control speed. This requires that you get into a lower gear, with the slipperier the surface the lower the gear. Lower gears prevent your car’s speed from creeping higher without you realizing it.
- Avoid doing something that might cause other drivers to have to abruptly change speed or direction. This means signaling your intentions well in advance and making sure that you have plenty of time and space to carry them out.
- Put on the damn headlights! What really enrages me are those vehicles that drive without lights when it is snowing or there is fog. It is true that there may be enough light for the driver of that vehicle to see others but that is not the point of putting on the lights. The point is to make it easier for other people to see you. This obvious truth seems to be lost on some people.
Nothing is more maddening than making a left turn or entering an intersection or changing lanes and to find another vehicle suddenly emerge close to you because their lack of lights did not make them visible except at close range.
Fortunately only a minority of drivers still don’t know this basic safety rule. But that raises another puzzle: when these drivers see almost everyone else having their headlights on, doesn’t it strike them that there might be a reason for doing the same and investigate? Are they completely oblivious and/or incurious to what others are doing?
- You really don’t save much time by speeding in city traffic and so you might as well drive slowly and take your time.
- Be even more careful of cyclists than you normally should be.
I am sure that readers will have other tips to add for safe winter driving.