This has been a winter of strange and nasty weather. Snow in Dallas, but none for the Olympics, WTF? Now, the Northwest is getting dumped on in the mountains, while the East Coast is preparing for another torrential storm, this time rain and likely flooding. No matter what you might be experiencing, you should be prepared for it, and that includes the ability to handle your vehicle in dirty, nasty weather. Check out some tips below to stay safe on the roads.
Of course, the most surefire way to avert a weather related accident is abstinence, just don’t drive in it. But, often, this is impractical and other methods must be used to avoid pregnancy, er…a crash. If you must drive, stick to roads with a good amount of traffic. Although you’ll be around more potential targets, the street will likely be plowed or sanded or free of standing water, and thus safer to drive. Also, give yourself some time for the city workers to clear away the weather. This will allow you a moment to consider one, if you actually need to drive, and two, if you are prepared with items like an emergency kit in your car, chains, flairs, etc.
Alright, so it’s grandma’s 90th and you must get across town, or over the pass. When on the road, avoid sudden movements. When you hit your brakes, do it gently so you don’t lock up your tires. If that does happen, release the brakes and allow your wheels to grip again. On the same token, accelerate slowly so your tires can grab some traction. Essentially, your normal herky-jerky whiplash style of commanding the road will not fly in these conditions. Also, know what areas are prone to be dangerous, like bridges or other exposed pieces of roadway, and expect them to worse.
Similar to the last point, you need to avoid speeding. In fact, the speed limit is probably too fast in a many situations, so take it easy. Also, control your road rage and don’t tailgate. You need to give yourself time to break. The driver in front of you will also be very appreciative and less likely to brake hard out of spite and ruin both your days. Additionally, if you find yourself pinned behind a snowplow or road cleaning/clearing vehicle, just enjoy the ride. The operator of the 3 ton steel box that would crumple your Honda without noticing has surprisingly poor peripheral visibility. Also, he is making the road better for you, so as annoying as the slow speed might be, you are better enjoying the radio and actually reaching your destination.
When battling averse conditions, you may encounter a slide. The worst reaction in this scenario is to lose your cool. If you keep your wits about you, hopefully you’ll remember some of these tips. First, remove your foot from the accelerator. If your rear wheels are skidding, steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. So, if your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If you over correct, gently steer back the opposite direction. Avoid Tommy Boy-like maneuvering and you should stay on the correct side of the road. Make sure to tap your brakes if you don’t have ABS. In the case your front wheels are sliding, wait to steer immediately. Let the wheels gain traction in their sideways movement, then steer in the direction you want to go and gently begin accelerating again. It might feel wrong, like letting your girlfriend win, but trust us, it’s science.
Bring a shovel
So, you got stuck, now what? Don’t sit there, lay on the gas and let your tires continuously spin; you are only digging yourself deeper. Do take a breath and examine the situation. If your in snow, move your tires side to side to clear it out of the way. Better yet, if you don’t mind getting outside your vehicle and you have a shovel, dig a path for yourself. As long as you are out there, consider laying down some traction. Obviously, some sand would be great, but in the case you don’t carry a bucket of it in your trunk, improvise. If you are coming home from the grocery store, you might have all sort traction creating items, like kitty litter, for example. Another option is to rock the vehicle and/or move back and forth (drive and reverse) until you free yourself or help the tires find grip. Treat the accelerator like a women you are seducing, too much or too little and the deal is off. You gotta feel out the sweet spot.
Practice makes perfect
Of course, the best way to deal with poor driving conditions is to practice. When it gets kind of ugly outside, but it’s not dangerous to drive around, find a nice open, uncleared space, like a vacant parking lot and have at it. Force your vehicle to slide around and try to get out of it. Hit a puddle to understand what hydroplaning feels like. You will build your skills and have a ton of fun. Probably the most enjoyable “work” you’ll ever do.