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Driving in the snow in Seattle can be hit or miss. If you are from the Seattle area, you know that people say we have no idea what we are doing when driving in the snow. While that may be true in some cases, it is not a locale-dependent fact. Plenty of people cannot or will not drive in the snow – and that goes beyond the residents of Washington state!
The truth is anyone can drive in the snow with a little confidence, practice and good sense of cause and effect. Get better at driving in the snow by taking the time to learn how your vehicle behaves in the snow and following the great tips outlined in this article.
Prepare Yourself for Driving in the Snow
Winter weather can be unpredictable, so preparing yourself to drive in the snow is important. The first step is to ensure that your vehicle is winter-ready. This includes checking your battery, wipers, tires and windshield washer fluid. It is also important to purchase winter tires if you don’t already have them.
It is also important to make sure you maintain an operational steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedal. This will help prevent jerky movements which can cause your car to spin when the snow is too deep or roads underneath are too slick for traction. While driving, be aware of animals and other obstacles as they may try to cross the road, especially on bridges. If you notice one, slow down and avoid collisions.
Increase Following Distance
When driving in snowy conditions, it’s important to increase your following distance. While it’s tempting to stay close to the vehicle in front of you, doing so is a bad idea and can cause multi-car pileups. If you follow too closely, you’ll have less time to stop and take action. The extra distance will also give you enough time to view the vehicle in front of you. To help you increase your following distance, try these tips.
To increase your following distance, slow down. If possible, increase the following distance to at least three seconds. It’s also important to increase the following distance to four or more seconds when conditions are less than perfect. In extreme conditions, you should follow the vehicle ahead of you by at least six seconds.
Avoid Sudden Stops
One of the best ways to stay safe while driving in the snow is to avoid sudden stops and starts. Sudden stops can cause a skid and can be dangerous. Always make slow, gradual movements and avoid yanking on the steering wheel. It is also important to look ahead and anticipate turns and stops.
It is also important to increase your following distance from other vehicles, especially if it is snowing or icy. This will help you have more time to react if you need to make a sudden stop and not skid. A 60-mph vehicle will usually come to a complete stop in about 4.6 seconds. On slippery roads, it will take a driver about ten seconds. You should also lower your speed on highways.
Avoid Abrupt Shifting
A safe driving technique for the winter season is to avoid abrupt downward gear shifts. This is especially important when driving in snow. In icy conditions, sudden downshifts will cause your tires to unstick, so you should avoid shifting in and out of gear abruptly. Instead, slow down gradually to regain traction.
Driving in the snow is especially dangerous because you cannot use the brakes as effectively as good weather driving. The engine will be working as a brake, and it is therefore safer to shift down instead of upshifting. However, downshifting will not make your car stop – or letting off the gas pedal to naturally slow. This process must be carried out in advance to reduce the possibility of the car spinning. If you have a manual transmission, it’s best to use manual gears and avoid making sudden downshifts.
Let Off the Gas to Gain Traction
When driving in the snow, it is essential to slow down smoothly and not accelerate rapidly. You should also use the brakes gently and rely on traction. If you are not driving a vehicle with ABS, gently pump the brake pedal to regain control.
When driving in the snow, if you have an automatic transmission, you can expect the transmission to handle most of the driving. A modern automatic transmission can even work in conjunction with traction control systems. In addition, many models come with manual modes, which give you more control over speed and low gears. Keep in mind that traction is most likely to be lost when accelerating, braking or turning.
Be sure to check the weather report before leaving the house. Some conditions are only meant for specialized vehicles and it always worth taking extra precautions!