Car control

Winter Wobbling

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I don’t envy those who live in warmer and less snowy places. They miss out on one of my favorite winter pastimes; driving in a snowstorm. You read correctly. I enjoy the challenge of maintaining control of a vehicle, be it car, truck, or school bus, in Northeast Snowconditions that would cause Rudolph and Santa to consider UPS this year. Give me low visibility and limited traction and I will be one happy little lobster.

Where I live we have had two snowstorms in the last few days, and there is freezing rain on the way for the weekend. Such a spate of inconvenient weather, (not bad weather; all weather is good,) usually means three things:

  • Grocery stores are packed to the rafters with folks buying provisions as though the end was nigh
  • Local highway department workers are busy planning their plow routes so that they will pass the end of the driveway just as you are finished clearing it, creating a six foot bank you must remove
  • Otherwise competent and skilled drivers completely forget how to control a car, either performing the equivalent of a Ken Block Gymkhana video or skidding into a tree.

The first two are products of human nature, a subject on which I’ve long given up. So let’s take a look at some ways to cope with less than adequate traction.

First bit of advice is do as I say, not as I do. Stay home until the worst is over, and let the plow guys do their jobs. But after the storm, roads will still be slick, so slow down and keep a good distance between vehicles. this goes doubly for you folks with AWD winter-driving-2and 4X4’s. Very few things are more irritating than being passed (in weather!) by some high end computer mobile or lifted lorrie  because they think “Power to all wheels! I got this!” What they have is four tires. Under power. Losing traction. Not steering, Or Stopping. Smarten up.

Then it’s just common sense stuff, Clean ALL the snow off the car. Don’t jam on the brakes, pump them easily. Don’t use cruise control. Follow the plow, don’t pass it. Turn on lights.

If you should start to skid at the rear wheels, easily remove your foot from the gas and steer into the skid. (Tail left, turn left, & vice verse,) Do not touch the brakes!  Repeat as necessary. If the front starts to slide, remove foot from gas pedal, put car in neutral and do NOT steer. The car will straighten itself out.

I suggest just after a storm finding an empty lot and practicing skids a few times. Yes you’ll look like a Hoonigan, but it may keep you out of trouble later on. Or it would be good to take a winter driving course like the one offered by Team O’Neil Rally School. Either way, do what you can to make yourself a better driver in all conditions!

ahr

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