I have new snow tires and I love them. I’ve really been able to put them to the test this past week since we’ve had rain, ice, snow, and snow again. Having a front wheel drive car still means having snow tires on every tire, as it is much more stable.
So around the first left turn, it’s good. No fish tailing. Made it through the 4-way stop at the high school. The whole intersection turns into an ice skating rink when it snows. The drive home is several miles with a long shallow incline to a sharper incline and a curve at the top. Coming down this is trickier than going up. Making the right hand turn to start the climb and voila! There it is, the first spin-out of the season. A little white truck had taken the curve too fast. He did a really impressive set of 360s before going over the ditch, through a fence, and landing in someone’s front yard. He’s lucky he didn’t hit a tree and go through the windshield. This type of stunt is best to avoid (unless you’re on the slopes of Heavenly and then that’s a whole different story, which you can see here). But if you’re on the road, try to stay on the road. It just makes life easier for everyone.
So after this little adventure in driving, it seems a good time to remind everyone of:
TIPS for Driving in Snow and Ice!
1. Get REALLY good tires. It makes all the difference.
2. Don’t tailgate. Leave enough room between you and the car in front of you. Stopping on snow or ice takes longer. The conventional wisdom is too leave 3 x more than normal. That means car lengths, not feet. So if you drive a foot away from the car in front of you, you can now relax to 3 feet. If you slam on the brakes, there is a very good chance your brakes will lock, your tires will slide and you will probably spin out and hit some innocent bystander. When you’re driving at night in a snow storm, it is really hard to see if you are the lead car. It’s even more difficult with someone’s headlights shining in the rear view mirror. So if you are behind a car, give them some room.
3. Give yourself time to stop. This really goes with the above. Tap the break gently several times to avoid spinning or your brakes locking. Start slowing down early so by the time you need to stop, you actually can.
4. Drive the appropriate speed for the conditions. Snow packed roads are better with speed than ice covered roads. Snow pack can take 35 miles an hour (if it’s daylight and you can see) but ice, ice is really deadly. You can spin out in a heart beat. So slow it down. Be careful around curves. 20 – 25 miles an hour should be ok. Don’t think, ‘oh well, I have 4 wheel drive, I can do anything.’ No, you can’t do anything. Ice doesn’t respect your 4 wheel or all wheel drive. You’re going to land in the ditch, or worse, the same as any other car.
At the same time, don’t drive too slow. That’s dangerous too. Driving 15 miles an hour is a great way to back up traffic and cause hazardous conditions. If you’re nervous about driving in the snow or ice, don’t do it. Stay home or go with someone else.
5. Don’t try to beat the berm. When the main highway through Tahoe gets plowed, the plows put the snow in the middle of the road, or the left hand turn lane. And then it gets removed later. I can not tell you how many times we watch drivers trying to beat the berm by driving over it and get high centered. There they sit, spinning their wheels trying to get off it. Then they have to be rescued from their stupid decision. Traffic backs up, drivers get angry, accidents happen. The plows make an opening somewhere along the middle berm so that people can turn left safely. You may have to scope it out a bit, you may have to back track a bit, but it will be shorter in the long run.