31 Dec Tips for driving in snow
Winter has officially arrived and with it snow! In West Michigan that means learning how to safely navigate snow and ice covered roads. Following these tips for driving in the snow can help prevent the unwanted frustration of an accident.
Know Your Vehicle
Knowing about your vehicle and the safety features it’s equipped with is important to understanding how to operate it safely. Rear-wheel drive and front-wheel drive vehicles handle differently in the snow because of their power to weight ratio and change the way they perform on snow-covered roads. ABS, or an anti-lock braking system, is a safety feature designed to maintain traction on the road and prevent the wheels from locking up when prolonged pressure is applied to the brakes. It helps the driver sustain control and prevents skidding. If your vehicle does not have ABS, you’ll need to ‘pump’ your brakes in order for them to maintain their grip when braking hard. Electronic stability control (ESC) is another safety system your vehicle may have. It detects and prevents skids, helping the driver from losing control on slippery roads. Although common, ABS and ESC are not standard on all cars and trucks. Check your owner’s manual to find out more about your vehicle’s safety features.
Preparing your vehicle for the winter is simple. Adequate tread on your tires is critical to maintaining a proper grip on the road. The Tire Rack recommends a minimum of 6/32″ for tires when driving in the snow. Clear windshields are important too. Check to see if your windshield wiper blades are working correctly, replacing them if necessary and make sure your windshield washer solvent is full of anti-icing fluid. It’s also a good idea to carry extra blankets and water in your trunk, just in case your vehicle becomes stranded. Even if you live in an urban area, inclement weather can prolong the time it takes for a tow truck to arrive.
Slippery roads mean loss of traction for not only moving forward but for stopping as well. One of the easiest and most effective things you can do when inclement weather hits is to reduce your speed. Braking distance increases when the roads are slick, so give yourself more space between your car and the vehicle in front of you. Remember that while AWD or 4WD provide power to all four tires, aiding your vehicle’s ability to move on ice or snow, but it does nothing to help your vehicle in stopping any faster. Be aware of road conditions and look ahead for anticipated problems. Learning how to recover your vehicle from a skid is important as well, and if possible should be practiced ahead of time.
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