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Tips for First Time Winter Drivers

Eli Loppnow

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Driving for the first time brings a lot of anxiety to not only the student, but also the parents who are in the passenger seat. Most of the students will say, “Mom, I’m fine! I’ve had my temps 5 months!” But does the story change when winter weather is in play?

The most prevalent piece of information that you will find about winter driving, is to just not go on the roads, but almost everyone has to be somewhere at some point in time. Here I will list my favorite tips for new winter drivers.

The easiest thing most people can do to prevent accidents, is to add weight to their car. Try to keep the gas tank full, as liquid weighs quite a lot, and the gas tank is near the back of the car. Keeping weight on the rear half of your car will give more traction to the rear tires, preventing unrecoverable spin outs, and slides. Keeping some cat litter, or sand bags in the trunk of your car can also help immensely.

Another large factor of how your car performs in the snow, are the tires. Those four pieces of black rubber are the only things that hold your vehicle to the road. Knowing if you have summer or all season tires can help you decide if you need a different set of tires for winter or not. There are also tires that are meant exclusively for winter and cold weather. These types of tires are made of a softer rubber, that offer much more grip. This is a fairly expensive option, but you will definitely notice the difference.

Knowing what type of drivetrain your vehicle has, helps understand what to do if your car starts to slip or slide. Most vehicles produced in the past few years are front wheel drive. This means that the power that the engine produces makes just the front wheels spin. If your vehicle has front wheel drive, and you start to spin, look in the direction you want to go, and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go, and partially let off the gas. Doing this will temporarily shift the center of gravity toward the front of the car, giving more grip to the front wheels. You should drive in a similar manner if you have 4×4 or all wheel drive. The best thing to remember is that just because all four of your wheels spin, it doesn’t mean that your car will not spin out or lose traction. If your vehicle is rear wheel drive, typically sports cars, SUVs and trucks, the best way to stop spins is to counter steer the wheel, and don’t let off of the accelerator pedal. Countersteering is a tough thing to master, but it is basically turning the opposite direction that the car is turning, and purposely keeping the car in a more controllable slide.

Driving cautiously on the road is super important, but there is a large difference from driving at a snail’s pace, and driving safely. All of the movements that you want your car to make, takes much longer in the winter because of the lack of traction. Corners should be taken at much slower speeds, and try not to speed up until you have passed the entire turn. Accelerating from a stop should take you much longer than during other seasons, make sure you don’t excessively spin your tires, and if you do, slowly let off of the accelerator. The same goes for breaking; allow much more space, and significantly more time to come to a stop. If you don’t have to stop all the way, it is helpful not to. Try to never stop on a sloped hill, and go much slower down the hills. It also helps to build up speed before traveling up a hill, and using very little acceleration while on the face of the hill.

Keeping a few tools in your car to help when you get stuck will usually save you some embarrassment, and maybe keep you from having to pay a tow truck bill. The best things to keep in your car is a small shovel to move the snow, a pair of old rugs to place under your tires will help give you much more traction when you are stuck, and in extreme cases, consider bringing chains for your tires. Make sure to check your local laws and ordinances for use of tire chains before driving with them on public roads.

Make sure to keep your eyes open for any uncleared obstacles on the road, such as ice and snow. Although black ice cannot be seen sometimes, an odd reflection or glare on the road can most times warn you of black ice. STAY AWAY from snow drifts, they may appear soft and small, but many times they are very dense, and can damage your vehicle’s suspension, and body panels if you are not careful.

Finally, pay attention to where and how you park. Use common sense, and think of where plows will be pushing the snow. Make sure not to park on the streets, as this will get you a ticket in many places.

Keeping these few things in mind will allow you to control your car better in the snow. Remember to plan your route accordingly for your next winter excursion, and perhaps you can save yourself, and a passenger from a heart attack or two. Be Safe!

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Be Responsible, Be Respectful, Be Extraordinary
Tips for First Time Winter Drivers