Life101 Adulting Series
We had our first major snowfall this past week in Indiana, and my high school students, like every other driver on the road, freaked out. Because driving in the winter can be scary, and maybe something will go wrong. How should you drive in slippery conditions?
Winter Drive Tip One: Just Drive SLOWER
I know you’re running late. But a tardy to class is better than a car accident, any day. Give yourself twice as much time to get anywhere in snowy and icy conditions.
I remember my driver’s ed teacher’s instructions to leave at least 2 seconds between me and the car in front of me at town speeds – more time at higher speeds. Same goes for wintry conditions: give yourself more time between cars, more time to accelerate (if you hit the gas too fast you can spin your tires), more time to brake, and more time to turn. Don’t try to sneak out in front of oncoming traffic. Wait until the light turns or you have a long break between cars.
Winter Drive Tip Two: Actually clean your windows
I’m guilty of driving while looking out that tiny hole the defroster made, hoping my wipers will clear the ice soon. It was dangerous. And stupid. And dangerous. Take the four minutes you need to clear your glass so you can see safely.
Try to start your car and let your defrosters run to warm up the glass, and actually buy a decent scraper to keep in your car to clear the windows. I have found that most of my brush/scraper combos break, so I have one good scraper and one good brush in my car. (I actually had a student who didn’t know what the back defroster was, and drove around with an inch of ice on her back windshield because she couldn’t scrape it off! Some new cars crank them on automatically, but older cars like mine probably have TWO defroster buttons – hit them both!).
I remember one year when I taught in Texas we had freezing rain during the school day, and I was the only teacher in the parking lot who had an ice scraper in her car (because, you know, I’m from the Midwest). I scraped everyone’s windshields that day, because credit cards really suck as scrapers. Be prepared. Bonus if you have an emergency sack in your trunk: keep an extra blanket and set of mittens and hat in case you get stuck somewhere and have to wait in the cold for help.
While you’re at it, pick up one of these random window protectors for your windshield if you park your car outside for long periods of time. I got one for Christmas last year as a sort of goofy gag gift, but it has really come in handy! Mine has elastic to loop around the mirrors; it is super easy and doesn’t leave any marks.
Winter Drive Tip Three: Turn Into Your Spin
I learned to drive in the winter. My dad took me to a university parking lot during Christmas break, when it was empty, and we practiced doing donuts until I learned the most important of winter skills: how to fix a spin. Other great options to practice: Hobby Lobby parking lots on Sundays, or church parking lots on a snowy afternoon without services.
This is a counter-intuitive skill for new drivers. Most cars are front wheel drive, which means only their front wheels turn (4-wheel drive means that all wheels turn with the steering wheel). The non-turning wheels are most likely to skid on a turn, and your only response is to turn the front wheels.
Let’s say I am making a RIGHT turn out of my neighborhood. I hit a patch of ice, and the rear end of my car starts to veer LEFT. It is my instinct as a new driver to turn my steering wheel RIGHT, because I don’t want to go left…right?
If my butt spins LEFT but I turn my wheel RIGHT, then the momentum will spin my car in a circle and suddenly I’ll be facing oncoming traffic. Scary, and dangerous.
Instead, turn your wheel in the same directions as your spin. If your butt swings LEFT, turn your wheel LEFT. If your butt swings RIGHT, turn your wheel RIGHT. This avoids turning your wheels into a circle and will correct your spin. Do not hit your breaks.
This video does a great job of clearly explaining what this looks like – start at 3:15 in and watch until about 7:25.
The best way to learn to drive in winter is to practice, but be safe out there! Stay tuned for my next post: what to do if you DO end up in an accident (because, you know, I’ve had a few).
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