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How To Drive In Snow

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

How To Drive In Snow

Patricia Bland
November 2, 2012


One of the most accident causing weather conditions is snowy weather. Below are some tips to help avoid problems when trying to drive in snow.

First, be aware of terrain. Looking at how snow affects a car, it is easy to see the problems it causes stem from the loss of traction. In certain terrain, this problem is multiplied. Hills, up or down, can be a problem in snow. A sharp curve can also be a magnet for accidents on the morning after a snow. If there is any way possible, avoid taking routes that have steep hills or sharp curves to navigate. While even the sharpest curves on flat ground can be navigated slowly, be aware that tall snow covered hills can be impossible to navigate altogether. When checking terrain, be aware of areas where ice could form. The most dangerous of these would be puddles where snow-melt refreezes. The only real safe driving advice for ice is don't drive on ice.

Once you've chosen the least treacherous route to get to your destination, it is time to consider how to navigate that route safely. First, know how to accelerate. Acceleration on snow should be done in a relatively slow and steady manner. Once moving at a safe but reasonable speed, try to keep a steady speed to maximize traction. Acceleration is seldom the problem though, it is deceleration that causes the most accidents. The first rule of thumb is to drive more slowly so that deceleration is less necessary. If you are forced to brake hard on snow, no good will come of it. For this reason, along with maintaining a sedate pace, maintain more space than you normally would between yourself and any vehicles on the road with you.

When you must decelerate relatively suddenly, use the car's gearing to slow you down as much as possible. The reason cars spin out when you hit your brakes on snow is that one tire maintains traction slightly longer than the other and the one that loses traction locks and never regains traction. Antilock brakes can help by causing them to unlock more quickly, but a better option is dropping to a lower gear. Moving into a lower gear causes the tyres to turn more slowly, effectively braking the vehicle, but never actually lock so even if one side loses traction, its still rolling tyre has a chance to regain it and maintain the car's stability. While obviously most effective with a standard transmission, dropping into a lower gear is an effective way to decelerate in a controlled manner even in an automatic transmission powered vehicle.

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This article was written by Patricia Bland, a scots-woman through and through. With over 20 years experience in the automotive trade, in scotland particular. For more information visit http://www.macklinmotors.co.uk



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