Body and Soul
(page 4 of 5)
BRAVING BLACK ICE
Snow on the slopes invariably means snow on the Valley’s roadways. So here are a few winter driving tips with help from Car Talk producer Doug Mayer to keep you safe on your way to carve turns, or wherever you may be headed.
Clear Snow and Ice
Clear off the entire car, not just a little peephole in the windshield. You need just as much, if not more, visibility in poor conditions because you have to keep your eyes peeled for pedestrians, and every other knucklehead or animal on the road. Make sure every glass surface is clear and transparent by using a snow brush and/or ice scraper. Your side-view mirrors and all lights should be brushed and cleared as well. It’s the law in most states.
Even with good coolant, snow tires, stability control, all-wheel drive and the bag of Doritos in the trunk, keep in mind that driving in snow, sleet, and ice is very treacherous. And even if you maintain control of your car, not everyone else will. So don’t ever get lulled into a false sense of security. Do everything slowly and gently. Remember, in the snow, the tires are always just barely grabbing the road. Accelerate slowly and gently, turn slowly and gently, and brake slowly and gently. To do this, you have to anticipate turns and stops. That means what? Going slowly and leaving plenty of distance between you and other cars.
Understanding your Car
Every car has different handling characteristics. You should know what your car can and cannot do in the snow. (Hint: It can’t do any of the things it was doing on the TV commercial that made you buy it.) You should know if you have front-, rear-, part-time or full-time four-wheel drive; antilock brakes; traction control; and stability control. You should know what kind of tires are on the car, and how all those things work and how they help you or don’t help you. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to do a little driving in an empty parking lot on a snowy day just so you know what to expect from your car when you drive on snowy roads.
Gain Control in a Spin
If you find yourself spinning on a slippery roadway, don’t panic. Or, as our Car Talk friends, Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, advise, “Rapid movements lead to skids and loss of control. Drive as if there were eggs on the bottoms of your feet—step on the gas and the brake pedals so gently that you don’t break the eggshell.” If you do find yourself in a spin, without panicking or overcorrecting, slowly remove your foot from the accelerator and/or brake and try to follow the skid until your tires regain traction.
How to Avoid Wildlife
Deer and elk are typically on roadways during dawn and dusk, while moose and bear move around at night. If you see an animal on, or near, the road, slow down until the animal has moved. Frightened animals are unpredictable and may run in any direction. Turning in the direction that the animal is moving will increase your chances of collision. If a collision is unavoidable, make sure to let off the brakes right before impact to ensure that your front end stays high (braking does the opposite–moving the car’s center of gravity forward and lowering the front end) which will hopefully keep the animal from hitting your windshield.