Winter Driving

Wintry weather brings a bounty of enjoyable things?fresh powder on ski hills, snuggling up with a warm drink?but it also brings black ice, whiteouts, and the one thing many commuters dread: winter driving.

If you live in a snowy climate, you’ve likely seen it all; the fender benders, the spinouts, and the cars overturned in the ditch.

But winter driving doesn’t have to be that bad, and Mark Cox, Director of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School, offers some timely advice as you head out onto those snowy roads.

As Mark explains, the main hazard of winter driving is ?limited traction or ?grip.? On dry pavement a driver can use poor technique and get away with it because they are well under the grip limit. Low grip magnifies poor technique and makes every mistake more critical.?

It may seem logical that simply slowing down would avoid the problem, but It’s a little more complicated than that.

?In many instances,? Mark says, ?a driver who is going much slower than traffic is just as much a hazard as a driver going too fast. Speed differential is a very real problem in winter driving.?

He explains that the techniques taught at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School ?aren’t winter specific, they apply to any low grip situation (wet pavement, gravel, dirt, mud, etc.) and even to dry pavement at higher speeds. Driving using proper technique is simply a safer way to travel regardless of the surface.?

When it comes to proper driving technique, Mark notes that there are several common mistakes people make, especially in bad conditions: ?Following too closely, overestimating the ability of all wheel drive, and not looking far enough ahead.?

Along with learning (or taking a refresher on) proper driving skills, preparing your vehicle for wintry roads is vital. We asked Mark what drivers can do to get their vehicles ready to face the snow and ice.

?Make sure the battery, wipers and suspension are in like new operating condition. And be aware that a half worn snow tire has the performance of an all-season tire, a half worn all-season tire has the performance of a summer tire, and summer tires aren’t ever appropriate in winter conditions.?

?As temperatures drop in the fall,? he explained, ?so do tire pressures. For every 10 degrees F drop in temperature a tire loses one psi. If you last checked your tire pressure in September at 80 degrees and It’s now 30 degrees out, your tires are five psi too low. This affects both performance and safety negatively.?

A great place to find out more about prepping your vehicle is the Transport Canada website. They offer a downloadable winter driving manual packed with practical advice, including a list of items to keep in your car.

To help fine tune your skills behind the wheel, the Bridgestone Winter Driving School site offers winter driving manuals and DVDs, and you can learn more about winter tire safety at Be Tire Smart, a government of Canada resource.

While there’s a lot of good information available, we asked Mark what one piece of advice he thinks is the most important for people to remember.

?It takes from four to 10 times as long to stop on ice and snow. Drivers need to factor this in to the following distance and look far enough ahead to compensate for this distance,? he says.

And the biggest misconception people have about winter driving? ?That it is a scary, stressful thing to do. Winter driving using proper technique can actually be a fun experience.?

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