winter driving


winter driving

Winter driving poses its own special hazards, which are not usually present at other times. They include snow, ice, and other slippery conditions. Here are some rules to follow to stay out of trouble:

  1. Have the right equipment. Certain vehicles work a lot better than others under winter conditions. You need the following equipment to have enough control under winter conditions.
    • All-wheel drive or front-wheel drive
    • Antilock brakes
    • An automatic transmission with any of these:
      • A pure second-gear position on the gearshift (e.g. Ford "2" position)
      • A "SECOND GEAR START" or "Winter Mode" button or position
      • A "D2" gearshift position
      • A manumatic (manual/auto) transmission that does not take control away from you
      • An old two-speed transmission (e.g. Powerglide, Jetaway)
    • Note that it takes a lot of skill to get equivalent performance with a manual transmission.
    • More on a winter driving position
    • Add a winter driving control to a post-1994 GM car with 4-speed automatic
  2. NEVER go the normal dry road speed. Slick roads hinder acceleration, braking, and turning.
  3. Don't drive unnecessarily. Keep off the road unless necessary in slick conditions.
  4. Pack a shovel and some kitty litter or sand. You may need them if you get stuck.
  5. Force is needed to start, accelerate, turn, decelerate, and stop a vehicle. But applying too much force makes the wheels slide instead of roll. Use the least amount of force necessary to start, turn, and stop the vehicle.
  6. DON'T spin the wheels. A spinning wheel melts the snow and makes ice.
  7. Leave enough following distance between vehicles. Slick roads require increased spacing. Use the following spacings:
    • Dry roads: 2 seconds under 45 mph, 3 seconds over 45 mph
    • Wet roads: 3 seconds under 45 mph, 4 seconds over 45 mph
    • snow-covered roads: 4 seconds (stay under 45 mph)
    • Icy roads, or snow-covered ice: 10 seconds (stay under 20 mph)
    Start counting seconds when the rear bumper of the car ahead passes a landmark, and stop counting when your front bumper passes it.

    Slow down or turn off if the vehicle behind stays too close.

  8. Use engine braking to help you stop. Downshift well in advance of the stopping point. Use the "S" or "2" position, followed by the "1", "L", or "Gr" position.
  9. To start an automatic-transmission car moving, select a range that does not shift by itself. This is where the Ford "2" position or a manumatic works quite well. If you don't have that, use a "SECOND GEAR START", "WINTER", or a "D2" position. If you don't have that either, you must use very carefully use the "1", "L", or "Gr" position. The idea is to have the slipping occur in the torque converter in the transmission, rather than at the tires, and to keep the transmission from shifting suddenly.

    If you have a manumatic, select the gear number that is half the number of gears you have or the gear the instruction manual recommends for winter. But a "sport" manumatic that automatically downshifts does no good here.

  10. To start a manual-transmission car moving, select a gear for best control. Use "2" or "1" (whichever works better for you). But it requires very precise clutch pedal control, because you have to make the slipping occur in the clutch, rather than at the tires. With no fluid clutch to slip automatically, the clutch pedal is the sole source of slip.
  11. Throttle control is also critical. Adjustments in engine speed can be used to minimize the amount of force between the wheels and the road. Use it to your advantage, but make no sudden changes.
  12. Go slow enough when turning or following a curve. Make sure you are moving slow enough that your car does not slide instead of turning. The inertial weight of the car tends to make it go straight ahead.
  13. Watch for sudden changes in pavement conditions. This is especially likely at bridges and at changes in government jurisdictions (where one government takes better care of the roads than another).
  14. Watch for black ice (transparent ice on pavement).
  15. ALL vehicles have 4-wheel brakes. Four-wheel-drive vehicles do not have better stopping powers than other cars. Four-wheel-drive vehicles do have better acceleration powers, but that doesn't mean you should go faster. Stopping limitations should always be the limiting factor of your speed.
  16. Plan your route to avoid trouble spots. Avoid blind corners, steep hills, STOP signs on hills, and places that collect snowdrifts or water.
  17. Vehicles are unable to move where snow fouls the lowest point other than the wheels. If snow hits the body, axle, bumper, or frame, the wheels spin instead of moving the car. Use your shovel to remove the snow. And don't drive across the spoil from a snowplow.
  18. If the vehicle won't move in the desired direction, back up and try again. Often a running start gets the car past the bad spot. Make sure traffic is clear before trying this. If that doesn't work, sand it, salt it, go around it, or back up and go another way.
  19. Avoid crowned roads. Your car may suddenly slide down the crown and off the road or into parked cars.
  20. In a line of stopped cars, leave enough room, in case the car ahead has to back up to clear a slick spot.
  21. On ice, only ONE car on a steep hill at a time. All other cars should wait, either at the top of the hill, or well away from the bottom of the hill. Otherwise, if one car gets out of control, it will cause a chain-reaction crash involving several vehicles.
  22. Don't pass stuck cars that are trying to get free. Be patient for the car to come free or for the driver to stop trying. Otherwise, the car may suddenly slide into you, or gain traction and leap forward. And don't cross the road at an intersection in front of a stuck car, for the same reason.
  23. For the first icy weather of the year, avoid the roads the inexperienced drivers will probably take. They collectively cause a large number of crashes on that first day, as they learn to control their vehicles under these new conditions.
  24. Use residential streets to bypass high-traffic areas. This lowers your chance of being hit by out-of-control vehicles.

Use these rules, and your winter driving experience will be a lot less hazardous.