The most basic element of driving safety at any time of year is being in complete control of your vehicle. This becomes even more critical in the winter months when rain, snow, slush, and ice can cover the surface of the highway you travel on. Losing control of your vehicle means not being able to stop or move your car in a safe manner.
To be in control of a moving vehicle you need to understand the relationship between speed and how quickly you can stop. The distance it takes to stop your vehicle increases the faster you travel. That is the easy part. It is clear that diving fast on a dry road will take longer to stop than when driving slowly on the same road but he distance needed to stop a vehicle becomes even longer on a slippery road surface. Rain, snow, slush, and ice, on the highway surface make it more slick to drive on. Each of the above by themselves or in combination with one of the others will reduce the safe speed you can drive at.
It is a good idea to check the weather expected before you start a winter drive. If there is a large snow fall expected or very icy road conditions will occur, don’t drive unless you absolutely have to.
If the road is straight and not busy with traffic check on how slippery stopping the car feels. Step on the brake hard and see how easily you slip. This gives only a rough idea of how slippery it is. Other places on the road may be much worse. Drive much slower if your car slips when taking the brake test.
The only time I have lost control of my vehicle in winter was by driving too fast for the highway conditions. The highway I was diving on was straight and covered with snow. The weather was warm and sunny for a winter’s day. I was driving at about fifteen miles per hour faster than I should have been. The road had a slight slippery feeling to it and I could see that there was some slush on the highway. However, he first sign that something was going wrong was very small. Slowly the front end of the car started to wander right then left. I took my foot off the gas pedal. The wandering front end got worse. I was just traveling too fast for the slippery road conditions. The slush on the highway caught my front tire and slowly started to spin me around to the left. I could see in the distance ahead of me a green van was coming in the opposite traffic lane. My car flipped in a half circle, stopping against the snow bank in the lane the van was in.
I was lucky. The van drove safely past me without colliding with my car. I drove back onto the highway. Turning the car around, I continued on my trip at a greatly reduced speed. I gained a new respect for driving on icy, slush covered roads. My near-miss happened on a straight highway but on a snow covered highway it is definitely a good idea to slow down some before entering a curve in the road. Resume your original speed after you exit the curve.
If your car skids on a slippery road surface, turn the wheels in the direction the car is skidding toward. Doing this should help you regain control. Correct your vehicle’s position to where you should be in your lane of travel. Your vehicle should always have on winter tires for driving in snowy conditions. It is also a good idea to carry tire chains in the trunkr.
Some of the items of safety equipment you should carry when taking a winter trip by car are extra warm clothes like a hat, gloves, thick pants, and a winter jacket, a blanket or two, some emergency high energy food is good. Always carry a flashlight, extra batteries and a cell phone.
Take a little extra time when winter driving. Slow down and live.