The most important piece of snow driving is obviously the car. I said in a previous story that it is important to make sure that your car is up to par in terms of winter driving. This can easily be done by taking your car into an auto-shop and having them check all the necessary parts to make sure you are safe enough to be driving out in the cruel winters of central Washington. If you’d prefer to stay on the cheaper side, the key pieces to check are your tires, your fluid levels, and look into the layout of your car to see how it does in the snow.
When it comes tires, snow tires are ideal. Essentially, snow tires have special rubber that stays pliable in cold weather so it can grip the road better. If you can’t have snow tires, studded tires or chains are a classic way keep traction on the road. You can typically buy chains at any auto parts store for around $30.
Now fluids, it is important to make sure all your fluids are at appropriate levels and it’s especially important to bring extra fluids with you in the winter because if something goes wrong in the winter, you’re likely to have to wait even longer for assistance to come given the dangerous road conditions. Similarly, always make sure you have anti-freeze and you are following the directions clearly.
The layout of a car is something most people don’t take into account. Where the engine is, whether your car is four-wheel drive, front wheel drive, or rear wheel drive, and how heavy your car is can make a huge difference. In general, you’re better off ideally with a four-wheel drive vehicle that is heavy with a manual transmission. The manual transmission will give you more precise control over the car, the weight will help keep the car on the ground and less likely to slide, and the four-wheel drive will make it so all four wheels are moving the car rather than just two. If you have a front-wheel drive car you’re also in good shape. It’s difficult to explain but think of it this way: would you have more control pulling a heavy sled up a snowy hill or pushing it? Cars work the same way in a sense. If your front tires are pulling your car you are less likely to spin it. If it is pushing (rear-wheel drive) and the front of the car bows one way or the other even slightly, the whole car could spin out. And nobody wants that.
As for you, the driver is likely the most important piece to the puzzle. As far as technique goes it is important to drive at a slower speed in order to give yourself more time to react to anything sudden happening with icy or snowy roads. If you do start to spin out, try to very lightly tap the brakes and calmly steer the car. If you try to steer or brake too hard, your brakes could lock up and by steering too much you could over-correct and go off in the opposite direction of where you want to go. Staying calm during anything unexpected while driving is a key part of driving in the snow.
This goes hand-in-hand with a proper mental state. It is important to be wide awake while driving in the snow or ice. Not only do you need to worry about your own driving, but you can never assume that other drivers are driving properly in the snow. Maybe they didn’t hear this story like you did. For that reason, you must be aware of other drivers. If someone is still going 40mph in a 35mph zone in the oncoming when there is three inches of snow on the ground, try going as far to the right as possible just in case something goes wrong.
Another reason you want to be in a good mental state is because if you do fall asleep driving ever, it will not go well. But if it is snowy or icy outside, you could slide hundreds of feet depending on your speed, possibly into oncoming traffic. It sounds scary because it is scary. But as long as you follow these tips you should be ready to drive in the snow.
At the end of the day however if you don’t feel comfortable driving in the snow then don’t do it. It is never worth the risk and sometimes being an apprehensive driver in the snow can make matters worse because drivers who are comfortable in the snow may assume you are as well and react accordingly. Then, when you brake suddenly, they may slide into your car and rear end you. Always ask for a ride from someone who has experience driving in the snow if you are unsure.
And that’s how you can stay safe driving in the snow this winter.
Featured image credit: Google, labeled for reuse