As I sit here and watch it snow, it seems like a good time to talk about winter driving. Thousands of people come to Tahoe every winter and drive like idiots. For some reason, the thought that there is snow, or worse ice, on the road and that it would be a good idea to adjust their driving, never crosses their mind. As a result, we have numerous accidents, some fatal, that never need to happen if people would just think.
Don’t tailgate. Leave enough room between you and the car in front of you. Stopping on snow or ice takes longer. 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.
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 stopping early.
Drive the appropriate speed for the conditions. Snow packed roads are better with speed than ice covered roads. Snow pack can take 35 – 40 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 care about 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. Stay home or go with someone else.
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 see this. 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. And 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.
Look at your tires. Good tires make a HUGE difference when driving during hazardous conditions.
Bottom line: Pay attention. Be sensible and courteous when driving in the snow. It’s not really going to cost you anything and it could save your life.