Yesterday morning I received a call from a good friend and hopefully future SA contributor, who after seeing the insanity taking place in the southern states suggested an article on driving in the snow and on icy roads.

Having grown up in New England, driving in bad weather is a way of life. While we don’t get an outrageous amount of accumulation here, we do get plenty of the crappy wet snow, freezing rain and ice storms that just hit the southern states, not to mention the black ice that will make your heart skip several beats when you vehicle suddenly goes sideways on you.

So for those of you that aren’t quite experienced in this type of environment or just need a little refresher, here is a list of tips for driving in the snow from the AAA Website:

  • Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. 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 roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
  • Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
  • Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, 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.

One thing brought up by my buddy in our conversation is that many people tend to freak out when their anti-lock breaks start to do their thing. They are designed not to lock up so they will pulse when you stomp down on them this creates an unusual noise and vibration in the brake pedal. This  keeps the wheels turning in short increments and while it might not decrease your stopping distance on slippery surfaces it will allow you better control of the vehicle.

Another useful bit of information also published by AAA:

Download (PDF, 1.63MB)

Finally, in the event you find yourself traveling to Alaska during the winter months I’ll offer this bit of information. Way up north they have some interesting road maintenance techniques, they only treat the roads with sand and gravel and don’t really plow down to the pavement. So the gravel embeds itself into the the hard packed snow and creates a sort of second pavement. Kinda.

Where it really gets bad is at intersections which are basically just sheets of ice. While in most places in the lower 48 a green light means GO! In Alaska a green light means wait for the car sliding through the intersection and then the other one behind it, he may or may not be able to stop. Oh and all that sand and gravel I talked about, lets just say your daily driver will have a cracked windshield and chipped paint, of course only to be seen in about May when you can actually wash the 3 inches of crud off without fear of freezing your doors shut.

Stay safe out there.

Mike R
Mike is a veteran US Army, Non-commissioned Officer with a combined 20 years of military and private sector experience in numerous aspects of military operations, physical security, fire protection, life safety, and crisis management both foreign and domestic.
Mike R
Mike R
Mike R

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