With the holidays on our doorstep and winter weather already arriving, the time has come for drivers to prepare their cars (and themselves) for safe winter travel. While the weather may be challenging at times, drivers must continue to work, school and holiday destinations. Many drivers are intimidated by taking to the roads when winter weather has created challenging conditions. By taking a few simple precautions, drivers greatly increase their safety, and that of their passengers and those around them.
Located in Dalton, NH, Team O’Neil Rally School has provided dirt and winter driving instruction for more than 20 years. Below are some of their most important safe winter driving tips that readers can apply to help them navigate wintery roads.
Plan for winter driving – You can be the safest winter driver on the road, but you’re only as good as the tools you use. Be sure your tires still have a deep tread, or better yet buy winter tires. Tires with a good tread, intended for winter use are critical and serve as your point of contact with the road. Be sure other parts of your car are in good working order as well; wiper blades, windshield washer fluid filled and have at least a half tank of gas. Pack an emergency kit in your car with gloves, hat, coat, small shovel, jumper cables and tow strap.
Test the conditions … and your car – Before you are faced with a real-world driving challenge, find a safe, open space and firmly apply your brakes or make a hard turn. Doing this early in the winter will allow you to know how your car reacts in these conditions, its limits, your limits and how to safely compensate for it. Doing so throughout the winter and during different storms will give you a better idea of the current conditions and how much steering and braking input you can effectively utilize. This will also allow you to know how much to compensate for the conditions.
Look where you want to go – This simple rule sounds obvious, but keeping it mind will help you end up where you want to be. When confronted with an unexpected slide, drivers often will fixate on an object on the side of the road, inevitably the car will head towards that object. Remain calm and stay focused on where you want the car to go, continue to concentrate on your driving inputs and often you will have a positive result.
Prioritize your maneuvers – With limited traction available, try to separate your throttle, steering and braking inputs. Envision only doing one of these things at a time. Accelerate and brake in a straight line whenever possible, try to only steer while going around a corner. Tires have limited grip in slippery winter conditions, by asking them to do too much simultaneously you run the risk of losing grip and beginning to slide out of control.
Be aware safety systems can be counter-productive – Systems such as ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) are in place to keep your wheels from locking up under heavy braking. When surfaces are slick enough from snow and ice this may result in you requiring several times the distance to come to a stop. Traction control is meant to eliminate the tires spinning faster than the distance of road traveled. Sometimes in winter, wheel spin is beneficial in cutting through the top layer of snow/ice and finding grip below it. Be prepared to have trouble accelerating and braking in certain slippery scenarios. Know these systems and what their positive and negative impacts are.
If you would like to learn more in a firsthand environment, the Team O’Neil Rally School located in Dalton, NH, has provided dirt and winter driving instruction for more than 20 years. The school offers a series of one-day Winter Driving Courses that give students the skills and instincts to safely navigate slippery roads. Students learn car control on actual snow-covered surfaces, in their own cars, in a safe and controlled environment. The courses are well-suited to younger drivers or those with limited experience in varied conditions.
To learn more or make a reservation visit TeamOneil.com or call 603-444-4488.