So you’re a beginning driver, or you earned your license just a year or so ago. And it’s snowing like crazy outside. You need to drive home from school, or work.
What will you do? Have you driven on snow and ice before?
If you answer “no,” today might be the best time to learn, provided you can find the right place.
Beginning drivers should learn bad-weather skills, just as you learned how to drive in the rain, at night, in traffic, and solo. Sooner or later, even in the mild lowlands west of the Cascades, you’ll encounter snow and ice. Learn how to cope with it now.
An empty parking lot is a good place to practice during daylight hours, or maybe a deserted side street if no cars are parked nearby. Choose open spaces where you can’t hit anything or skid off the road. Don’t practice on a main arterial.
Once there, learn how your particular car handles by practicing simple skills like turning and braking. Soon you’ll learn how easy it is to lose traction. Key steps to remember:
- First, clear snow off all glass, outside mirrors, and even your hood. You need a full range of vision. Don’t scrape just enough to see straight ahead. And why clear the hood? Because as you increase speed and the engine heats up, snow can break loose and smack your windshield, startling you and blocking your sight.
- Slow down. You’ll need far more reaction time on snow and ice.
- Increase following distances behind cars ahead of you.
- Anticipate – rather than react to – winter road conditions. Quick reactions and jerky motions can cause skids.
- Gradually accelerate, steer, and brake.
- Brake before turns and accelerate after turns, not during turns.
- Beware of overpasses. Because they’re exposed underneath, they often freeze before other road surfaces.
- If you skid, aim the front wheels in the direction you want to go. That will bring the back end of your car in line with the front.
- Use low beams, not high beams, during heavy snowfall whether it’s day or night – just like in fog.