Top Ten Driving tips for all you 'Mericans

Richard Baldwin

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Sep 5, 2008
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Even as far north as Toronto, the public goes into gridlock panic when it snows. It seems even most Canadians have forgotten what to do when it snows. Particularly when it comes to driving.
Looking further south, into areas in the states that rarely, if ever, see snow on the roads, it must be extremely hard for them to adjust, and in the wake of the type of winter we are having we have seen quite the calamity and gridlock like never before.

Part of the problem is many of these areas are not equipped for this type of weather. Snow Plow trucks with salters and sanders, snow tires, and a good deal of experience with driving in these conditions are almost non existent in these areas. This results in a mass inability to drive anywhere without careening into the car ahead of you or ending up upside down in the ditch.

As a true, red-blooded Ontario Canadian I would like to offer a little advice for the less experienced that live down south. You may need these tips to ensure you arrive home safely in the event of the next winter snowstorm that hits your area. I learned how to drive on roads like this and grew up in the snowiest hard core winter area of Ontario and have seen this, and driven through this every year for my entire life. Here are a few tips I learned along the way.

Here are my top ten tips for inexperienced winter drivers:

1. Make sure your windows, lights and mirrors are clear. Nothing annoys me more than to see some old guy driving by who could barely bother to open a little hole in the front windshield to peer through while he drives down the street. He feels if he can see in front of him that is enough. Well, it's not enough. You need to see in all directions around you, and as clearly as possible. Your back windows should be completely clear and frost free, or well scraped while the car warms up, your rear view mirrors, all windows. Those who can park indoors have the greatest advantage because the windows are fully clear when they start driving. For those who cannot park indoors in the winter, consider buying a canvas shelter to go over the car. It makes a world of difference and saves you a lot of window clearing time in the morning.

2. Buy Snow Tires. First of all make sure you fully understand that there is no such thing as "All season radials". More like "All season ditch-magnets". That is just a marketing gimmick. Snow tires are made with different tread patterns designed for snow, ice and slippery surfaces. The rubber is softer and the tire "bends" more easily around bumps, giving you better traction. If you can afford it, have the snow tires installed on a separate set of rims and store them in the garage or house during the non-winter months. Having the garage constantly rip them off one rim and install onto another will weaken the tires and cost you a lot more in labor.

3. Slow Down. You have most likely heard that a million times. And yet NOBODY LISTENS. People seem to think that if the sign says max speed 55mph then you HAVE to go that speed regardless of weather and road conditions. Up here in Canada people seem to feel the need to "prove themselves" and will exceed the speed limit during bad road conditions. They aren't proving anything to me, except how stupid they are. The driver that goes slow will have a significantly higher chance of making it to their destination without incident. You are driving on surfaces that have almost ZERO traction. Stopping at a high rate of speed is impossible. Even making sudden defensive driving maneuvers while going fast is highly unlikely. A good rule of thumb is look at the car ahead of you and imagine if he came to sudden stop NOW, would you be able to stop? The slower you go, the more traction and control you will have. However, because everyone else wants to drive like an idiot, keep to the right lane and if visibility is poor, or you are going slow on a very fast highway, put your hazard lights on to warn approaching drivers that you are slower moving vehicle.

4. Wear sunglasses. Unless it is night time of course. But in the day, sunglasses will filter out the glare of the snow and all that "whiteness" and actually improve your ability to see the track marks on the road. This is particularly helpful during white out conditions.

5. Use low gear when approaching steep hills. At first you might think low gear would make the tires spin easier. Well, yes it will if you punch it. But when you go super easy on the gas, you are applying more torque and less speed to the road. If the tire slips it will only slip a little, instead of spinning wildly like when you are in higher gear. People that "punch it" to get unstuck are using a zero traction technique. Although sometimes this can still work, the driver that tackles that hill with control and technique is going to have a better chance of making it up the hill. (Try to get some speed up too before you reach the hill) This also helps when going down an icy/snowy hill which I consider far more dangerous, because if you are going too fast and lose control, you can't stop.

6. You need weight over the tires. My truckmount has the water tank installed directly over the wheel wells. This was on purpose not only for space saving, but I was also thinking about winter driving. After three winters with this design I can honestly say it works wonders. My truckmount is actually "good in the snow". Put some weight in the trunk, salt bags are ideal because they are heavy and you can use the salt to help you get unstuck.

7. Keep emergency tools in the vehicle at all times. You only planned to go from the car to the store, and walk back. So you didn't take a tuke, scarf, or mitts. You didn't even put your good warm boots on. Now you are stuck on the side of the road in a snowstorm with no winter gear on at all. Not good! You should have what you need at all times when going out in the winter. Cell phone, small shovel, salt, winter clothing, even a few candles might help heat the car while stuck. (Dont keep the candles in the trunk)

8. During whiteouts keep your eyes on the front right part of the vehicle. This is the part of the road you have the most chance of seeing during a white out. Remember that whiteouts generally dont go for long, maybe 5-10 seconds at most. So you need to make sure the car is on the right part of the road while getting through it. You don't want to run into a semi coming the other way because you wandered too far left. The semi can see better than you because he is up higher so don't worry about him.

9. Stay as calm and relaxed as possible. When you are "white knuckle" driving with zero traction, poor visibility, high winds, and some trucker on your ass honking and flashing his lights because he wants you to go faster, it can be pretty stressful. Remember to breathe, and relax. Light conversation with a passenger may help to keep you from being too focused on your situation.

10. Lights on at all times. An inexperienced winter driver thinks that he only needs lights for him/her to see. Other drivers need to see you as well. Lights on can be the difference between making it home safely and having a head on collision. In extremely poor visibility having the hazards on helps even more to improve your visibility to others. Stay visible and stay alive!
 

vader

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Jan 26, 2014
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Stewie, Griffin
This year on the west coast we haven't had it bad unlike many other years, not even close to what the east coast has been going throw. I always get a good laugh at people who speed by think cause they are in a truck or a car that has AWD that they are fine…..sure enough down the road they are in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.

I remember few years back I was on the high, it was snowing all day, roads weren't clear. A guy in his truck was passing everyone on the left, past me and soon after started to slide. He missed a red car, went into a ditch gave it gas, was able to get out and almost hit the same red car, went all the way across into another ditch. I and 4 other vehicles pulled over to see if we can help, the red car that the was almost hit just drove off (can't blame them lol).
 

Artie09

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Dec 17, 2012
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We are barely starting to feel some chilly nights but not very cold.
We are spoiled here in California.

So cal all day

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