The first time I ever drove a car was in the snow. It was my parents' philosophy that good snow drivers are created by early exposure to snowy conditions, so one snowy Sunday morning, my dad took me to the unplowed parking lot at the mall and let me get my snow legs. (Wheels?) I nearly crashed into a stop sign, but that was the only time I ever lost control of a car in the snow. And since I grew up in Buffalo, where the video posted above illustrates the sort of conditions we dealt with, I feel entitled to call myself an experienced snow driver. And we never had four wheel drive, or anti-lock breaks. We didn't even have front wheel drive.
This year we're having a pretty snowy winter in Virginia. It's starting to feel like The Long Winter from the Little House series. And we're supposed to get possibly three-to-four more feet of snow this weekend, plus another storm on Tuesday. I see plenty of people here who drive capably in the snow, but I see plenty of others who clearly should not be on the road. I though I'd post a few pointers about snow driving.
- Speed: Some people make the mistake of driving as slowly as possible, thinking that is safer. Actually, crawling along at 2mph will just get you stuck, along with everyone else who is behind you. You don't want to drive so fast that you're reckless, either, but you need some momentum or you'll never get up the hills. A good rule of thumb is to go about 5-10 mph less than the speed limit, but speed up if you're going up a hill.
- DON'T STOP when you're going up a hill.
- Your brakes can be your worst enemy. Use them sparingly. Obviously, you do need to stop sometimes. The key is to anticipate when you will need to stop and take your foot off the gas and coast so the loss of momentum will reduce your need for the brakes. And when you do press the brake pedal, do it gently.
- Leave extra space--a lot of extra space-- between yourself and the car in front of you. This will allow you to defend yourself if that person loses control of his car. It allows you to create extra momentum for yourself if the driver in front of you is the crawl-up-the-hill type, and prevents you from having to make sudden stops.
- You don't want to make any sudden motions. Never slam on the brakes. If you're approaching a curve or need to turn, coast to it, don't brake for it. Then accelerate when you're about halfway into the turn.
- Pay attention. Especially pay attention to traffic lights. Don't approach a stale green light going full speed, or you will end up having to chose between running a red light or stopping suddenly and losing control of your car.
- Pack a shovel in your car.
- Don't be one of those assholes who think that because they have four wheel drive, they can drive recklessly.