Have you ever driven your vehicle during the winter months and the weather and road conditions begin to change as the earlier fine forecast begins to deteriorate? Meanwhile, you have some distance to go before you reach the safe confines of hearth and home. You press on.
Snow is swirling around you now. You realize that your vehicle’s daylight running lights are not cutting it – especially for anyone driving behind since they can only tell you are there when you tentatively touch the brake pedal. Now is the time to turn your headlights on low beam. Do not switch to high beam. This will create a dangerous glare from the reflection of your lights on the blinding snow.
Slippery roads can be treacherous. Always follow other cars at a safe distance when driving under these conditions. On snow or ice it takes three to 12 times as much distance to stop your car as it does on dry pavement – even with good winter tires. Give yourself plenty of room to stop behind the vehicle you are following. Avoid using "cruise control" when the road surface is slick.
Any vehicle will start to skid when tires lose their grip on the road’s surface. When this occurs, your first instinct is to slam your foot down on the brakes. Big mistake. Applying the brakes quickly will only cause your vehicle to skid faster. Steering your vehicle will become difficult because your front wheels will lock. The main thing to remember in a skid is to keep calm – and not overreact. When your vehicle starts to skid the first thing you have to do is regain control. Keep your feet off the accelerator and brakes until you have regained the ability to steer. Only then should you begin to apply the brakes – and then, very carefully. Do not use them unless it is necessary.
Remember that keeping your car under control means you must turn in the direction you want the front of the car to go. Because you are already looking forward, you have a guideline where you want to steer. Pumping the brakes – on snow or ice – can make the wheels lock, causing a loss of steering. Instead of pumping, driving experts recommend the “squeeze technique.” This means squeeze the brake pedal down gently until you feel the brakes are about to lock up, let off the pedal, then squeeze again. Squeezing the brakes slows down the car quickly. This way, you will keep your tires rolling, which is the key to steering – and you remain in control.
In most situations it is best to steer around trouble without trying to brake at all. If you do not have time to steer around something, you certainly will not have time to stop for it. Remain calm and pay attention. If conditions worsen, then get off the road slowly and safely. Find a gas station or somewhere you can literally ride out the bad weather. Better to be late than the alternative.