Avoiding Catastrophe in Winter Weather

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Driving in Winter Weather Photo by Adam Allred

Driving in Winter Weather
Photo by Adam Allred

Utah is home to the “The Best Snow on Earth”. Along with skiing, snowboarding, sledding, white Christmas’, snowball fights, and snowmen with crooked carrot noses, there are roads covered in slippery snow and ice.


Driving on sleet covered or icy roads can be difficult and dangerous for you and your car. The last thing anybody wants is to find himself, or herself, in an out-of-control vehicle heading towards other vehicles, a guardrail, or pedestrians. To help avoid this, here are some tips for driving safely and taking care of cars in the winter.


When accelerating and decelerating, go slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving too fast. Take time to slow down at yield or stop signs. Always remember that it takes longer to slow down on icy roads.


No matter how big of a hurry you are in, drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, or turning nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly. If needs be, prepare to leave a little early, to avoid driving in a rush.


A good rule of thumb is to realize that the normal, dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This longer distance will provide an increased margin of safety for when you have to stop.


Another tip is to take the time to know your brakes before the bad weather comes. No matter what kind of brakes are in a car, the best way to stop is what is called, “threshold breaking”.  Threshold breaking is when one keeps the heel of the foot on the floor and uses the ball of the foot to apply firm and steady pressure on the brake.


If it is not necessary to come to a complete stop, don’t. The amount of inertia needed in stopping and starting on dry roads is much different than on icy roads.


Do not try to muscle your way up hills. Trying to power up hills can result in spinning wheels. Try to get a little speed before going up hills. Then, before you reach the top of hill, reduce your speed and proceed down the hill as slowly as possible.


Sarah Carlsen, a student here at Snow, said, “The thing that scares me the most about driving on snowy road are the other drivers that are either not used to driving in these conditions, or lose control of their cars.”  If possible, just stay at home. If you really don’t have to go out, then don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.


Another good rule of thumb is to keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid having the gas line freeze-up.


Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery, wet, or icy roads.  Using cruise control makes it easier on long road trips to maintain speed and save gas, but it is also a quick way to hydroplane and lose control on wet roads.


Lastly, a word for pedestrians.  Remember that vehicles are not able to stop as quickly, maintain direction, or turn as well on icy, snowy and wet roads, to say nothing of visibility during storms.  Please use designated walking and crossing areas, as this will help drivers to know when there might be pedestrians. If at all possible, give the right-of-way to the vehicles.  Alison Olsen said, “Can’t believe that I haven’t already hit anyone on the roads, that is my biggest fear during the storms.”


Good luck, and safe driving!

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