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Driving skills fail when snow falls

Driving skills fail when snow falls

Cars on ice. It sounds like a new Disney spectacular but, in reality, driving on ice and snow can lead to skidding, sliding, injury and even death.

Driving in the snow is nothing new for the people of Central Illinois, but it seems like all our driving skills go right out the window with the first snowflake. Panic and fear replace common sense.

Last week’s record snowfall was no different. A level-two snow emergency was called for Springfield and people were asked to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary.

I work the night shift at a hospital that never closes its doors. On my way to work, I was very happy to see that people actually heeded the government’s advice to stay home; however, the few brave souls I saw traveling the snow packed streets weren’t using what they’d learned in drivers ed.

Driving too fast, stopping too late and lacking control as their cars were sliding around like pucks on an air hockey table could have led to more than just cars stuck in the snow.

The American Automobile Association suggests taking several steps to ensure safe traveling during the snowy season.

Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter weather before the first snowfall of the season. Have a mechanic give your car a thorough inspection to make sure everything is working properly. You wouldn’t want to get stuck in a winter storm because of a lack of preventative maintenance.

Make sure you are ready for winter travel. Big bulky coats and gloves are great for making your way to the car and until the interior of your car has warmed up, but AAA suggests pulling over and removing your heavy clothing once your car is warm. This may be inconvenient but should an accident happen, it would be easier to get out of the car.

My biggest problem in the snow is getting going once I’ve stopped. I have a tendency to spin my tires too much, which leads to skidding and sliding. To avoid this issue, gently press on the accelerator. If your wheels start spinning, let up on the gas until you feel your tires grip the road again. Don’t just gun it or you’ll be spinning your tires into a ditch.

Once you get moving, remember to increase your following distances. Normally, you want to be three to four seconds behind the car in front of you but, when driving on ice and snow, you should increase your following times to about eight to 10 seconds.

Keep in mind that, like following distances, stopping distances need to be increased as well. In fact, stopping distances should be doubled when driving on snow and ice. Gentle, even pressure on the brake is the best way to avoid skidding when stopping.

Skidding happens when you brake too hard causing one or more of the tires to lock up or when you’re going too fast around a curve. The best advice when your car starts to skid is simple. Do not panic.

Avoid slamming on the breaks. This will only exacerbate the issue. Instead, let off of the gas and steer your car in the direction you want to the front of your car to go. Once your tires regain traction, continue steering in the direction you want to go. Most importantly, keep calm.

I’m not very comfortable driving in the snow. It makes me nervous and I’m not above asking my husband to chauffeur me around town. However, armed with the right knowledge, anyone can be a good driver in the snow.

Hopefully, these tips won’t be needed again anytime soon as spring is right around the corner.

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