Residents of the Upper Midwest and Northern Plains are getting a taste of winter early this year. A massive storm is dropping up to eight inches of snow, in addition to freezing rain, chilly temperatures, and high winds.
In Iowa, the storm caused whiteout conditions, making car travel unsafe for even the most skilled confident drivers. Slippery roads and low visibility are serious safety threats during this kind of weather. However, there are steps you can take to minimize risk.
1. Stay Home
The most obvious solution is to stay home if you can. If you have the option to avoid the road, take it. Even if you are a good driver, the other people on the road might not have the same level of skill.
And please consider whether you should put the risk on someone else’s shoulders by ordering delivery in inclement conditions. If you do order in, tip more generously than you would in good weather.
2. Use a Different Technique
While slowing down is important during winter driving, that’s not the whole story. You need to apply a more delicate touch to both the brakes and the gas in bad weather. That’s especially true on hills, which can present a major challenge if the roads are icy.
Never stop on a hill, as that can cause catastrophic sliding or spinning when you try to accelerate again. In fact, any sudden stops or starts should be avoided. You simply won’t have the same kind of control over your vehicle on icy or wet roads as you do in good weather.
3. Give Yourself Some Space
It takes longer to slow down on slippery pavement, so keep that in mind as you prepare to stop. Apply the brakes sooner and more gently than you would normally.
Leave more distance than you think you need. That goes for the following distance between you and the next car.
4. Manage a Skid
If your car does start to slide out of control, the most important thing is not to panic. Slamming on the brakes now will make the problem worse.
Instead, focus your attention on where you want to go. Ease off the gas and calmly direct the car back into your lane. If the rear wheels are the ones skidding out, turn the steering wheel into the slide.
When all else fails, however, your car’s anti-lock brake system could be a life-saver. If the skid is going to put you in immediate danger–running into a tree, for example–then press the brake pedal down all the way without letting up. The ABS system will take over, and you can concentrate on steering.