Winter Driving

Winter Driving

Winter driving involves some dangerous situations that only occur at this time of year. The hours of darkness increase while daylight hours decrease. Together with fog, rain, snow, sleet, and ice, this problem greatly increases the dangers of driving in the winter months.

Before driving remove snow and ice from the vehicle (especially the hood and windows). Be sure that your windshield wiper fluid contains antifreeze. On really cold days, be very careful about using the windshield washer and wipers when driving at high speeds. Even if the fluid contains antifreeze, high speed combined with extreme cold can freeze the solution on the windshield and completely block your view of the road ahead.

Though it is very important not to start driving before your engine is warmed up do not warm it up too much. Thirty seconds is usually enough time to allow your engine to idle. A cold engine will warm up faster when the vehicle is being driven than when left to idle for long periods of time. When the weather is unusually cold remember to drive at slower speeds for a few miles to give your car time to warm up.

Get the feel of the road. Try using your brakes while driving slowly to find out just how slippery the road is. Adjust your speed accordingly. If your vehicle is equipped with "cruise control" you should avoid using it when driving on slippery roads.
If your vehicle has front-wheel drive, you may want to install snow tires on the front axle. With rear wheel drive vehicles you should have them on the rear axle. If the vehicle has four-wheel drive, all four wheels should have snow tires. They are recommended for general driving during the winter months. This is because they greatly improve general traction, such as for starting and stopping.

However, you should not allow yourself to become too confident because you have snow tires on your vehicle's wheels. You still must use slower speeds and longer following distances when driving on ice and snow. Though they are a great help under normal winter driving conditions, snow tires do not give better traction on ice. When the road surface is extremely icy, or covered with hard-packed or very deep snow, reinforced tire chains are much more helpful.

Be prepared for winter driving emergencies. Some of the more common ones are vehicles breaking down or getting stuck in heavy snow or blizzards. During the winter months you should always have the following equipment in your vehicle:

Winter Equipment

  • A shovel.
  • A container of sand.
  • Warm clothing and footwear.
  • A red flag for your vehicle's antenna.
  • In addition, it is always helpful to have:
  • Blankets or sleeping bags.
  • Quick energy foods and drinking water, and an empty waste container.
  • A tow chain and tire chains.
  • Electric flares.
  • Jumper cables.
  • Candles, and matches or a lighter.
  • A first aid kit.

Snow Removal Equipment. Snowplowing accidents are a common occurrence during the winter season. Most of the accidents involving snowplows are caused by motorists colliding with the rear of the plow, or the blade on the side of the plow.

When the weather has produced snowy or icy road conditions it is important for you to watch the roads carefully for snow removal equipment. Watch for flashing white, yellow, and blue lights, which are used on snow removal vehicles. Be alert for dangerous snow clouds or "whiteout" conditions. Because of their traveling speed and size, snowplows tend to create large clouds of blowing snow that may conceal the plow, making it "invisible." It is extremely important to maintain a safe speed and following distance whenever you encounter a snow cloud. It is very dangerous to pass a snowplow when a snow cloud is present. Be patient and wait for conditions to improve before you pass.

Snowplows and other removal equipment frequently move at very slow speeds, and in residential areas, they must often back up to turn around. Leave extra distance for equipment operators to complete their job safely, and obey snow emergency parking rules. Stay well behind plows to avoid having your vehicle hit by sanding materials, snow, and ice. DON'T CROWD THE PLOW.

In the past, there have been 100 accidents or more involving snowplows in Minnesota each year. These collisions result in property damage, injuries, and sometimes death. Please remember to stay back from snowplows; pass plows only when you can see the entire vehicle, including the blade; and reduce your speed.

Also, remember that snowplow drivers have limited visibility. Be extremely careful when entering the freeway, snowplow drivers clearing the shoulder of the road will not be able to see you.

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' I did not think I was going too fast'. A common remark from people loosing control of front wheel drive vehicles. What the average person and some experts are not aware of is that there can be as high as 950 pounds or more weight on the front axle of their vehicle than the back. So a car that feels like a limousine on the front holds like a golf cart on the back
A 3000lb car with a weight ratio of 65% front weight and 35% rear weight will weigh 1950lb on the front and 1050 on the rear. After you use 10 gallon of fuel from the rear tank one of the front wheels has as much traction as both rear combined.
If you analyze single vehicle accidents you will find most of them had better tires on the front than the back or a very large weight difference. In fact the worst balanced cars have 4 times as many fatalities as cars designed with better balance. How are you going to tell how fast is too fast under these conditions when it is possible for a balanced car to handle fine on a slippery surface at 50 mph and an unbalanced car to loose control at 20 mph and both to feel the same to the drivers.
A quick check of tire sites will show that the most important tires on a front wheel drive are the rear.

I learned that you should always use 4 winter tires, especially on a front wheel drive car. The reduced traction of the rear wheels can cause a spin in an emergency stop or while turning.

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