Winter is coming. And while this is good news for those Game of Thrones fans, it also means more dangerous roads and hazardous driving conditions. Whether you are a veteran Northeaster or a So Cal driver out of his element, everyone could use a quick refresher course on safe winter driving tactics. Check out these 5 safety tips so you aren’t left out in the cold this season.
1. Drive Slowly
This tip should come as no surprise. When road and weather conditions are poor, the best thing to do is slow down. This is especially important when you are driving on icy, wet, or snowy roads.
Be sure to give ample space between yourself and the next vehicle—preferably three times more space than under normal weather conditions. Your reduced speed will decrease your risk of losing control of the vehicle and limit the damages incurred should you have an accident.
2. Brake Early
In addition to reducing your speed, you should also brake sooner when coming to stops. Ice and snow can cause your car to slip and skid. By braking early, you reduce your chances of sliding into a vehicle in front of you or skidding right into an intersection.
Apply lighter pressure on the brake to avoid locking your wheels, which can cause skidding. If the wheels do start to lock up, ease off the brake and try pumping them gently.
3. Don’t Multitask
Perform only one action at a time when driving. Instead of braking on a turn or accelerating on a turn, for example, brake before the corner. This will reduce your chances of skidding and help your car maintain traction and control on the road.
Moreover, avoid making sudden actions while driving in winter conditions as well. Hard braking, sudden acceleration, or sharp turns can throw off your car’s balance and dynamics. This makes it more difficult for you to maintain control behind the wheel and puts you at risk for accident or collision.
4. Steer into a Slide
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we still find ourselves skidding and sliding on the roads. If your rear wheels begin to slide, take your foot off the accelerator and steer the car in the direction of the skid. For example, if the rear wheels are sliding right, turn right. This will help your car straighten out and regain traction.
If your car has standard brakes (usually older vehicles), gently pump them. Typically, newer cars will have anti-lock braking (ABS) systems. If your vehicle has ABS, you won’t need to pump them. Simply apply steady pressure to them. You will feel them pulse under your foot, but this is normal.
5. Don’t Spin Your Wheels
Ice and snow may prevent you from getting out on the road at all. If your car gets stuck—in a ditch or in your own driveway—don’t spin your wheels. This will only make it harder to get out. Instead, try turning your wheels from side to side several times to push the snow out of the way. If you have a shovel, use it to clear out some the snow around the tires and under the car.
Add sand, gravel, salt, or even kitty litter behind the wheels to give greater traction. Then lightly touch the gas to try to ease the car out slowly. You may need to rock the vehicle a few times to get it out of the rut. You can do this manually or by shifting back and forth from forward to reverse, lightly touching the gas when you are in gear.
Driving in the winter can be stressful and intimidating. However, by exercising smart driving tactics, you can successfully avoid many of the pitfalls of winter driving. So, even if you are a northern transplant who bought his car at a Honda dealer in Hollywood, you can be just as confident in the snow as a native Alaskan. Just remember to be safe and avoid driving in poor conditions wherever possible.