Driving tips for winter weather

After Cincinnati experienced its first snowfall for the year on Oct. 30, students are starting to prepare for the challenge of driving in winter weather. This may be a new experience not only for drivers who earned their licenses this year, but maybe even for drivers who earned their licenses last year, as they had very little snow to face. Driving in the snow can be tricky and dangerous, and students should be prepared to safely face the challenges that come with winter driving.

Besides the basic precautions like driving more slowly, making sure the windshield washer fluid is full, and making sure headlights are working perfectly and not covered by snow, there are many other tips that students can use to make sure they get to school safely in the winter conditions.

1: Plan the route

Before leaving, drivers should think about the route they are taking and consider where conditions might be worse. They should consider hills, sharp turns, and busy intersections since those are especially difficult in winter weather. After analyzing the routes they can take, they can choose which one they think will be the safest. Also, consider lane choice for the road conditions.  Some highway curves are sloped for normal highway speeds.  However, in slow, slippery conditions, being on the high-side of the curve may not be a good lane choice.

2: Test the road conditions

Before students get onto a main road with lots of traffic, they should test the road conditions by pressing on the breaks. They don’t want to find out too late that they should have approached an intersection more slowly. They want to be prepared beforehand. If little brake pressure is applied and the tires stop turning, the roads are icy.  It’s also good to test the stopping distance needed depending on how slick the road is. As a general rule, students should double the space that they would usually leave between them and other cars.

3: Beware of exit ramps

Exit ramps are often more slippery, or even untreated, than the main highway lanes.  If the highway lanes are relatively clear, approach exit ramps with caution as they may still be snow covered or icy.

4: Stay in low gears

According to weather.com, when driving in slick conditions, drivers should keep the vehicle in the lower gears. This not only keeps the speed down, but it also helps the tires keep traction.

5: Be careful when following tracks

Drivers tend to follow the tire tracks left on the road by other cars. While these depressions in the snow can act as a guide when visibility is poor, they are also a great place for ice to form. As more and more cars run over the same portion of snow, the snow will turn to mush and can refreeze into ice. This creates dangerous strips of ice that appear to be snowy conditions, and happens often on the highways. By driving slightly to the side of the track rather than directly over them, the car will be on snow and will have more traction. Also, the car will be less likely to hit an ice patch and skid.

6: Be careful not to over-steer

Edmunds.com warns that when driving on an icy road, the movements of the steering wheel will be more exaggerated. Turning the wheel too fast can cause the car to become unbalanced, and cause the car to skid. If the car does go into a skid, the first reaction for drivers is often to try and turn out of the skid.  This is a bad technique because if the car does regain its traction, the car will continue in the direction the wheels are pointing. If the driver tries to turn out of the skid, the tires could be pointing into the opposite lane of traffic, and that is where the car will go.

7: How to get out of a skid

Edmunds said that in many cases, drivers must go against their natural instincts to control a skid. Rather than trying to turn out of the skid, drivers should turn into the skid. Rather than trying to break, the driver should actually accelerate. This doesn’t mean slam on the gas, because over-accelerating could make the situation worse. Drivers should release the breaks and gently accelerate while steering the car in the direction of the skid. This should rebalance the car and help the tires to gain traction. If the car is sliding and refuses to turn, drivers should carefully adjust the wheel until the tires regain some grip. After that, they can carefully add steering.

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