Expert tips for safe winter car trips
We’ve all experienced the trials and terrors of winter driving, and although we travel on icy roads every year, the high number of accidents that occur tell us people still don’t seem to know how to drive for winter conditions.
Now before you face another day of worrying whether or not you’ll make it to and from work, take a look at this list of expert tips for safe winter car trips that will make your winter driving as safe as possible.
Leaving snow on your car can cause accidents! Completely clear the snow off your hood, windows and roof
We have all been in this kind of situation, you’re running late, it’s cold and you don’t want to go through the arduous task of brushing and scraping every square centimeter of your car before you can leave for work.
However, a lack of patience can have serious consequences. That massive heap of snow you neglected to brush off can blow onto other people’s windshields which can obscure their vision leading to an accident which you can be held liable for.
You can also be ticketed for driving with obscured windows. Each provincial Traffic Safety Act stipulates that nobody should drive a vehicle that has its windows obstructed, this includes frost.
So just be patient this winter. Take the time to clear your car and make sure it’s safe for travel.
This one should be a no-brainer, but winter driving tends to make people nervous. In winter it is important to drive as smoothly as possible. Sudden swerves or jamming on your brakes will only serve to turn minor slips and slides into full blown accidents.
One special tip for smooth winter driving is engine braking. To keep it simple if you look at an automatic gear shift you’ll see P, R, D and then two sometimes three numbers. These numbers are the lower gears on your transmission.
Engine braking then is a combination of lessening off the gas and putting the car into a lower gear which slows down the engine and tires without having to slam on the brakes. This technique is especially helpful when going down icy hills.
Don’t be a jerk on the road. All-wheel-drive is not perfect!
You’ve probably experienced this situation before: you’re white knuckle driving down a slick two lane highway when someone in a massive Dodge Ram or a Subaru Forester speeds past you blowing snow all over your windshield while making you fear for your life!
These drivers are under the impression that their Four or All-Wheel-Drive means they can drive at any speed they want without having to worry about skids.
What they don’t understand is that these drive systems are great for generating traction from a standstill, and yes, they have better control than a two wheel drive car, but when it comes to stopping, it really doesn’t matter how much power is applied to each wheel because that doesn’t determine how quickly your car will stop: your tires and brakes do that.
So for those who believe that 4 or AWD means you’re exempt from driving appropriately for winter conditions please think again and slow down.
What to do during a skid
Skids are a very common cause for accidents on winter roads, unfortunately winter driving lessons are not mandatory in Canada, but if they were, you could bet it would prevent a lot of accidents.
Skids usually occur at higher speeds and they come in two forms: under-steer and over-steer.
Under-steer is when the front wheels lose their grip and the car keeps going straight even if the wheels are turned.
When your car is in an under-steer skid all you have to do is let off on the accelerator which will slow the front wheels allowing them to gain traction once again.
Over-steer happens when the rear wheels lose grip which usually results in a skid.
When your car begins under-steer you have to resist the urge to brake. Braking will lock up the wheels resulting in you having no chance to correct the skid. The wheels need to be turning freely in order to correct the skid.
Next you have to steer into the skid which means you have to turn your wheel in the direction the rear of the car is going. The car will respond to the correction with the tail end moving in the opposite direction and when it does turn the wheel to match it.
Be sure to keep calm and not over correct because turning too much will cause the car to skid faster which makes it harder for the steering to keep up with the sliding of the car.
One last tip
If you feel that your car can’t measure up to the demands of winter driving consider dropping by House of Cars to trade in an accident waiting to happen for something more winter worthy.