5 Important Tips for Safe Winter Driving
With this roller coaster of crazy weather, it can't hurt to pass along these reminders.
Whether you are a young, new driver...or an older experienced one, Team O'Neil Rally School reminds you about the simple precautions you can take on the roads to stay safe.
1. Plan for winter driving. You're only as good as the tools you use. Be sure your tires aren't worn out. Tires with a good tread are critical and serve as your point of contact with the road. Be sure other parts of your car are in working order, too (wiper blades in good condition, windshield washer fluid filled.) Keep the following items in your car for an emergency: Gloves, hat, coat, small shovel, jumper cables and tow strap. And it is also a good habit to keep at least a half-tank of gas in your tank during the winter months.
2. Test the conditions...and your car. Before you're faced with a real-world driving challenge, find a safe, open space and firmly apply your brakes or make a hard turn. Doing this early in the winter will allow you to know how your car reacts in these conditions, its limits, and how to safely compensate for it. Doing this throughout the winter and during different storms will give you a better idea of the current conditions and how much steering and braking input you can effectively use.
3. Look where you want to go. This simple rule sounds obvious, but keeping it in mind will help you end up where you want to be. When confronted with an unexpected slide, drivers often will fixate on an object on the side of the road, and inevitably the car will head towards that object. Remain calm and stay focused on where you want the car to go, continue to concentrate on driving and often you will have a positive result.
4. Prioritize your maneuvers. With limited grip available, if you are using a fair amount of one input (steering, braking, accelerating) you must wait to strongly apply another. For example, when braking hard, if you turn the steering wheel sharply, odds are you will continue straight. Wait until you are releasing the brake then steadily apply the steering.
5. Be aware safety systems can be counter-productive. Systems like ABS (Anti-lock Braking Systems) are in place to keep your wheels from locking up under heavy braking. When surfaces are slick enough from snow and ice, this may result in your requiring several times the distance to come to a stop. Traction control is meant to eliminate the tires spinning faster than the distance of road traveled. Sometimes in winter, wheel spin is beneficial in cutting through the top layer of snow/ice and finding grip below it. Be prepared to have trouble accelerating in certain slippery scenarios. Know these systems and what their positive and negative impacts are.
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