5 Tips for Safe Winter Driving
The 2018-19 winter has already delivered memorable weather for much of New England. Prolonged stretches of cold temperatures and abundant frozen precipitation have resulted in slippery driving conditions. While the weather has been challenging, the public must still continue to work, school, and other destinations. Many drivers are intimidated by taking to the roads when a mixed bag of weather has created challenging conditions. By taking a few simple precautions and being aware of the current conditions, you greatly increase your safety, that of your passengers, and the safety of those around you.
The Team O'Neil Rally School located in Dalton, NH has provided loose surface and winter driving instruction for more than 20 years. Each winter they offer Winter Driving Courses to get students more comfortable driving in quickly changing winter conditions. Below are five important safe winter driving tips that readers can apply to help them navigate wintery roads.
1. Plan for winter driving
You can be the safest winter driver on the road, but you're only as good as the tools you use. Be sure your tires aren't worn out, or better yet buy winter tires. Tires with a good tread, intended for winter use are critical and serve as your point of contact with the road. Be sure other parts of your car are in good working order; wiper blades, windshield washer fluid filled, have gloves, hat, coat, small shovel, jumper cables and tow strap. When possible, it is also a good habit to keep at least a half tank of gas in your tank during the winter months.
2. Test the conditions...and your car
Before you are faced with a real-world driving challenge, find a safe, open space and firmly apply your brakes or make a hard turn. Doing this early in the winter will allow you to know how your car reacts in these conditions, its limits, and how to safely compensate for it. Doing so throughout the winter and during different storms will give you a better idea of the current conditions and how much steering and braking input you can effectively utilize. This will also allow you to know how much to compensate for the conditions.
3. Look where you want to go
This simple rule sounds obvious, but keeping it mind will help you end up where you want to be. When confronted with an unexpected slide, drivers often will fixate on an object on the side of the road, inevitably the car will head towards that object. Remain calm and stay focused on where you want the car to go, continue to concentrate on driving and often you will have a positive result.
4. Prioritize your maneuvers
With limited grip available, if you are using a fair amount of one input (steering, braking, accelerating) you must wait to strongly apply another. For example when braking hard, if you turn the steering wheel sharply, odds are you will continue straight. Wait until you are releasing the brake then steadily apply the steering.
5. Be aware safety systems can be counter-productive
Systems such as ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) are in place to keep your wheels from locking up under heavy braking. When surfaces are slick enough from snow and ice this may result in you requiring several times the distance to come to a stop. Traction control is meant to eliminate the tires spinning faster than the distance of road traveled. Sometimes in winter, wheel spin is beneficial in cutting through the top layer of snow/ice and finding grip below it. Be prepared to have trouble accelerating in certain slippery scenarios. Know these systems and what their positive and negative impacts are.
Watch this video to learn what you should pack in a Winter Driving Emergency Kit.
If you would like to learn more in a firsthand environment, The Team O'Neil Rally School offers a series of one-day Winter Driving Courses that give students the skills and instincts to safely navigate slippery roads. Students learn car control on actual snow-covered surfaces, in their own cars, in a safe and controlled environment. The courses are well-suited to younger drivers or those with limited experience in varied conditions.
About the Team O'Neil Rally School
For the past 20 years Team O'Neil Rally School located in Dalton, NH has offered a variety of driving courses, including rally driving, winter safe driving, drift driving, off-road and security courses for individuals, private companies and government agencies. Courses offer educational and recreational experiences appropriate for all abilities. The facility sits on 585 acres of rolling terrain with over 6 miles of stage rally roads, and miles of OHRV and four-wheel drive trails. The Motorsports division offers competition rally car preparation, support and serves as the United States distributor of M-Sport parts and car kits. For more information visit teamoneil.com.
This blog post is a re-post from last year as we at Ski NH think winter driving safety is one of the most important aspects of a fun and safe ski-filled winter!