Tips for Winter Driving
I know some readers may live far enough south to not face the wrath of winter at the moment, but it seems strange to me that so many people who live in my region with its predictable annual snow season are so woefully ignorant of how to drive for the four or five months when white stuff covers the ground.
For the edification of people who forget so much every summer, here are some handy reminders.
- If the roads are clear and dry, you can drive safely at the posted speed limit. The snow banks will not jump into the road to get you. No need to poke along at 15 mph.
- If the roads are covered in ice, heavy snow, slush, or some combination of these adverse conditions, it is not safe to drive at the speed limit, much less above it.
- A small amount of dry, powdery snow that is not sticking to the road is not the same thing as that described in point 2 above. Neither is well-packed snow. Both of these conditions require their own levels of caution, but are not cause for driving 15 mph on a highway.
- Four wheel drive does not mean you are immune to weather, it just means you can manage better when things are bad, or get out of problems you shouldn't have gotten into in the first place.
- Learn to read ice. Black ice is dangerous because it is so smooth and slippery that it is transparent. Grayish ice has enough texture that unless the top surface has had a chance to thaw and re-freeze into a black ice consistency, it can usually be traversed easily enough with a measure of caution. The closer it is to white, the better your traction will probably be.
- Intersections, especially with stoplights, can be quite icy thanks to car exhaust allowing the formation of black ice or a slick surface on other shades of ice. Allow extra stopping distance.
In the image above, the road has been plowed, but a packed surface of ice and snow remains. Do you:
- Drive 10 mph over the posted speed limit just like during summer
- Plod along at 15 mph because winter is scary
- Assess the road conditions and drive at a prudent rate while observing the behavior of other drivers for indications of their respective assessments, or their misdiagnoses resulting in traction issues
Option 3 requires some measure of experience and acceptance of personal responsibility, but really, if you aren't ready to take that kind of responsibility, you should just stay home.
One last parting thought: Don't drink and drive. When the jackass who has to drive 10 MPH over the speed limit regardless of road conditions swerves around the idiot who can't exceed 15 MPH, loses control, and over-corrects into your car, any alcohol in your system means you take the blame anyway.