Winter weather can be intimidating for the most experienced drivers on the road. It’s important to know how to handle your vehicle in adverse weather conditions for your own safety, and those of other drivers and pedestrians. Most of the following techniques are common sense, but it may be hard to think straight once you start panicking.
Some basic guidelines include:
- Keeping your speed as low as possible
- Increasing the distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you
- Braking on straights, never during a corner if you can avoid it
- Being prepared and knowing how to use your anti-lock braking or anti-skid braking system
- Topping up your washer fluids, antifreeze, and keeping a heating oil treatment in your vehicle
Driving on snow and ice has some unique challenges. While you may do your best to avoid being on roadways, there will be times you have no choice but to navigate in slippery conditions. Here are some ways to stay safe on slick roads.
Accelerate gently and progressively – In slippery conditions, aggressive acceleration is likely to break traction resulting in wheelspin that could lead to loss of steering control in a front wheel drive vehicle, or oversteer slide in a rear wheel drive.
Recover from wheelspin quickly – If you notice the traction control system fighting for grip, resist the urge to floor the throttle, and back off the gas instead. Then re-apply smoothly to keep the engine speed as low as possible. Keeping a constant low throttle will help maximize grip.
Avoid sudden movement – Do not steer, brake, accelerate, or change gears in an unpredictable or haphazard manner. Your car only has a limited level of grip available so try not to overload your tires unnecessarily. Driving smoothly conserves grip, and makes you safer on the roads.
Carry speed up the slopes – When approaching a road or area that has steep slopes, you will need to carry a suitable amount of momentum to make it to the top. As you approach the top, inch off the throttle and try your best to come to a gentle stop.
Control speed down slopes – The opposite is true when going down hills. Maintain a consistent, safe speed and start breaking early if the ground is iced or slippery.
Oversteer and Understeer Conditions – If you find your car continuing straight when you steer (understeer), or your car tries to spin due to lack of traction at the rear (oversteer), try not to press down on the brakes aggressively. Instead, ease off the throttle and keep the steering wheel pointed in the direction you want to go. Press the clutch or go into neutral to remove the influence of the engine to help get the wheels rotating at a natural rate.