Posted on Dec 5, 2011 in Automobiles, Health & safety, Travel
Snow is starting to fall, and I’m never really sure if I’m doing the right thing behind the wheel in this freezing weather. Can you offer any tips or suggestions for driving in snowy winter conditions?
Driving safely in snowy conditions first requires preparation (see our article on the topic here) — and then you have to know how to handle your car in inclement weather, as it will behave differently on snow and ice than it does on dry pavement.
An entire book could be written on the techniques of winter driving, but I’ll go ahead and share some tips from my 15-plus years of dealing with snow and ice in everything from my personal car to ambulances and small buses.
I lived in upstate New York, in the heart of lake effect snow country, for years and years. I never felt the need to use tire chains, as I drove cars that performed well in the snow, with good tires. However, some states and areas require them — California, when there’s snow in the mountains, for example — and I feel that for a driver inexperienced in driving in snow they are a very helpful tool. If you live somewhere with chain laws — or just want to use them — make darn sure you know how to put them on before you need them. Freezing on the side of the road on a dark mountain pass is not the time to figure out how they install. Practice this in your nice warm garage at home first.
Another chain tip — chains belong on the wheels that actually drive your car. If you have a front wheel drive car, put them on the front wheels. If you have a rear wheel drive car, put them on the rear wheels. If you don’t know what kind of car you have, I highly suggest you read the manual and find out.
Most of all, just use common sense. You wouldn’t go sprinting on snow in your running shoes, trying to turn corners like you were on dry pavement — so why would you drive like that? Slow down, be gentle with the wheel and pedals, keep your eyes open, and you should be fine.
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