Drive to Survive During Winter: in Houston or Colder Climes
Around here, we don’t have much of a real winter. But you never know when nature’s “slippery frozen surprise” might come to call – even for a day. Heck, back in ’59 we got almost six inches of snow just after Christmas. Still, unless you’re from a northern state, Houstonians are far from experts when it comes to driving on wintery roads. And some of you might be planning a ski trip or a trip to see family up north this upcoming holiday season. So we can all use reminders on the best ways to survive a bout of “winter road-itis” wherever we might encounter it.
General Winter Driving Tips:
- Don’t drive when fatigued. Get plenty of rest before risky winter weather driving.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed garage.
- Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
- Never mix radial tires with other types (e.g., snow tires).
- Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid fuel line freeze-ups.
- If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, rainy, or snowy weather.
- Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery, wintry surface (snow, ice, sand).
Tips for Driving in Snow:
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Fresh snow affords a bit more control than packed snow.
- Take your time and drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads.
- Double your braking distance from the normal three or four seconds to seven or eight seconds. This increased margin of safety provides much longer and safer stopping distances.
- Know your brakes. Whether or not you have anti-lock brakes, the best way to stop is to keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, but gentle, steady pressure on the brake pedal. DON’T MASH!!!
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered hilly roads just spins your wheels. Try to build up gentle speed as you approach the hill. Let that momentum carry you to the top. As you crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible, without braking, but maybe shifting to a lower gear – carefully.
- Don’t stop when you’re going up a hill. Nothing good comes from it.
Advice for Driving on Icy Roads
Reduce your speed. High speeds make it easy to lose control and difficult to stop. Never drive faster than 40 mph in any vehicle when roads are icy – even highways! Much slower speeds get you there safely. You can slide off of the road on certain types of more treacherous icing – like black ice – even at 10 mph or less! If you’re fishtailing or sliding at all, it means you’re going too fast!
Go easy on your brakes. Brake application is a common trigger of slides and loss of vehicle control. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) don’t work well in ice and snow. They tend to lock up your wheels, which means loss of control.
If you’re caught off guard and begin sliding, slowly and carefully turn your wheels in the direction that the rear of your car is sliding. It helps to look with your eyes where you want the car to go, and turn the steering wheel in that direction. It is easy to oversteer, causing the car to reverse-slide. If this happens, gradually steer in the opposite direction.