While driving in what were, by Southern Oregon standards, blizzard conditions last Friday afternoon, I made a serious mistake. I assumed the drive would be easy for two reasons: 1. I drive a trusty 4×4, and 2. I’m a Pacific Northwesterner, which means I totally know what I’m doing. While point two is debatable, I would have put money on the Jeep coming through for me even as roads iced up and conditions got more and more slick by the minute. I would have lost that bet. Even after putting the rig into 4-wheel low the going was anything but easy. Taking off from a stop sent us skidding sideways. Braking did the same. Those beefy all-terrain tires I just had to have? Yeah, they didn’t do me any favors.
Two hours later, when we finally skidded into our snow-covered driveway I realized it’s been too long since my inclement-weather driving skills have been put to the test. I realized it was time for a refresher course. Safemotorist.com offers the following advice. I’ve read through it and internized the information so as to be better prepared the next time. How about you?
- Get the feel of the road by starting out slowly and testing your steering control and braking ability. Avoid spinning your tires when you start by gently pressing your gas pedal until the car starts to roll. Start slowing down at least three times sooner than you normally would when turning or stopping.
- Equip your vehicle with chains or snow tires. Chains are by far the most effective, and they should be used where ice and snow remain on the roadway. Remember that snow tires will slide on ice or packed snow so keep your distance.
- Reduce your speed to correspond with conditions. There is no such thing as a “safe” speed range at which you may drive on snow or ice. You must be extremely cautious until you are able to determine how much traction you can expect from your tires.
- When stopping, avoid sudden movements of the steering wheel and pump the brake gently. Avoid locking of brakes on glazed ice as it will cause a loss of steering and control. Every city block and every mile of highway may be different, depending upon sun or shade and the surface of the roadway. (Check your vehicle owner’s manual, if the vehicle has anti-lock brakes, you may apply steady pressure to the brake pedal.)
- Maintain a safe interval between you and the car ahead of you according to the conditions of the pavement. Many needless rear-end crashes occur on icy streets because drivers forget to leave stopping space.
- Keep your vehicle in the best possible driving condition. The lights, tires, brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, and radiator are especially important for winter driving.
- Keep your windows clear. Don’t start driving until the windows are defrosted and clean – even if you’re only going a short distance.
- Watch for danger or slippery spots ahead. Ice may remain on bridges even though the rest of the road is clear. Snow and ice also stick longer in shaded areas.