By AAA of Western and Central New York
Winter weather is in the forecast, and AAA has tips to keep everyone safe on the roads. About 46% of crashes involving bad weather take place in the winter, making this the worst time of year for driving in treacherous conditions.
AAA’s top three winter driving tips include slowing down, increasing space between yourself and other vehicles, and braking, then turning.
Additional important notes: If you go off the road, remain calm, and stay in your car with your seat belt on. If you are in an emergency situation, call 911. If you get stranded in your car, only exit the vehicle to clear the tailpipe of deep snow to ensure proper ventilation, then return to the car, put your seat belt on, and keep your window cracked open a bit until help arrives.
Tips for driving in the snow:
√ Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
√ Increase following distances. The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to 10 seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
√ Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold braking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
√ Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads may only result in spinning your wheels. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
√ Don’t stop going up a hill. It’s difficult to move up a hill on an icy road. If possible, get your vehicle moving on a flat roadway first before taking on a hill.
√ If possible, stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can.
Winter Driving: What NOT to Do
1. Don’t continue at the same speed you would be traveling in clear, dry conditions.
√ Rain, snow and ice can dramatically reduce your tire traction.
√ Drivers should slow down to regain the traction that is lost due to the weather.
2. Do not brake and turn at the same time or be rough with your steering/braking.
√ Asking your vehicle to do two things at a time makes it more likely that your tires will lose traction.
√ Brake first, then turn, then accelerate.
√ If you’re not gentle with steering, acceleration and braking, your vehicle’s balance can be negatively affected, increasing the chance of experiencing a skid.
√ Always steer, accelerate and brake smoothly.
√ Slamming on the brakes can make the skid even worse.
√ If skidding, continue to look and steer the vehicle in the direction you want to go.
3. Don’t follow behind other vehicles as closely as you would when driving in clear, dry conditions.
√ Slick roads mean your vehicle cannot slow down as quickly.
√ Increase following distances to a minimum of 5-6 seconds.
√ Always keep open space to at least one side of your vehicle, in case you need make an emergency lane change maneuver.
What to Do if You Get Stuck
√ Clear a path in front of your wheels for several feet by driving forward and backward or shoveling.
√ With your wheels pointed straight to minimize rolling resistance, shift to "drive" (or second gear for manual transmissions) and apply gentle pressure to the accelerator, without spinning the wheels. If you let the wheels spin, you will only dig deeper into the snow.
√ If you need more traction, use traction mats, kitty litter, or one of the abrasive materials that you included in your emergency winter driving kit. Do not let anyone stand directly ahead or behind the drive wheels.
√ If you are still stuck, rock your vehicle out of the rut by applying the accelerator slowly in low gear, releasing when you stop moving forward, and reapplying when you stop rolling backward. Repeat in rapid succession using minimum power to avoid spinning wheels.
√ Try to avoid driving when visibility is poor. If you must drive, keep your speed low, use your low-beam headlights, and pull off to a safe spot if conditions worsen.
As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 887,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.