It’s one thing to read about how to drive in the snow, and another to remember what you’re supposed to do when your car is skidding down a hill. This is a good time of year to review snow driving pointers – and it’s a good idea to put in some practice time in an empty parking lot where you have no chance of colliding with another car.
AAA has published a brochure called “How to Go on Ice and Snow,” which provides some helpful tips concerning winter road safety.
Slow and Steady
Slow and steady movements will almost always work in your favor. Driving slow gives you more time to stop and react. Avoiding jerky movements will minimize your chances of skidding. Keep these points in mind:
- Remember to allow for extra stopping distance in icy conditions. At 0 degrees F, you need twice the distance to stop safely as you would when it is 32 degrees F.
- Avoid changing lanes, when you can. If you’re making good time on a cleared lane, it’s all too easy to forget that as you cross over, the snow built up between lanes can be slippery.
- Avoid the temptation to break. This is always hard and often we have to work against our instinct to hit the brake. But at speeds over 25 mph, steering your way clear of a possible collision can be more effective than braking, because “less distance is required to steer around an object than to brake to a stop.”
It’s a scary feeling to skid, and know that you cannot control the car. Skids are usually caused by accelerating too hard, by braking, by going too fast, or by quick jerky movements.
If all else fails and you go into a skid, continue to look and steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
How to Get Unstuck
If you get stuck in the snow, don’t keep spinning your wheels or you’ll only dig yourself in deeper. If you have it on hand, throw down some abrasive material or a traction mat in the front and back of the drive wheels. Good abrasive materials are kitty litter, sand, or salt.
You can try rocking out of the rut. Your owner’s manual might have the best technique for your vehicle. But a good rule of thumb is to start in a low gear (if its manual transmission, use second gear). Start slowly with light pressure on accelerator, and when the car won’t move forward anymore, let go the accelerator and allow the car to roll back. When it stops moving backward, apply light pressure on the accelerator again.
Repeat this back and forth quickly, and each rock should move the car either more forward or more backward, out of the rut.
If you have the protection of all-wheel drive or studded tires, don’t forget about the many drivers who don’t. Slow and steady also means allowing the other drivers plenty of room in front of you.