Winter driving…..myths or truths?
For many years I’ve heard of drivers giving poor advice to other drivers about how to drive in snow and on ice. I’m not sure where they got their information from, but does it make any sense to take advice because the “guys at work” told you? I grew up with that as a kid. When my dad told us something that seemed unusual, we asked where he got that information from. He replied; “Guys at work told me”. So there you have it, the gospel according to the guys at work. How many of you have experienced the same thing while growing up? How many misconceptions were you given about driving techniques?
A common misconception regarding winter driving and 4-wheel drive vehicles is that they are better in the snow. Granted, they can and will provide greater acceleration than a front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive vehicle. However, the misconception is that it provides better traction. Proper winter tires allow the driver to have better control over their vehicle to stop, accelerate and to steer. However, if the driver is driving too fast for conditions, 4-wheel drive doesn’t matter. It doesn’t give them better braking ability. Slowing early with poor road conditions helps. You need to reduce the energy the vehicle has of its forward motion. The drive wheels have never helped with this.
Another thing to remember is many four-wheel-drive vehicles come with large, wide tires. Because of the larger surface area of these tires they don’t dig through snow as efficiently as tires which are less wide, and can actually “hydroplane” on top of snow or ice. This can cause the vehicle to slide while steering and braking.
An added benefit for a lot of drivers came with the addition of anti-lock brakes, or ABS as they are commonly known as. ABS has two benefits for the driver; it can help the driver stop with more control under slippery conditions or normal road conditions and can also allow the driver to brake and steer at the same time. Snow covered road conditions or gravel roads however do not allow the driver to stop any quicker. Therefore, the driver will still need to slow down sooner on slippery roads or loose surface roads compared to dry, clear road conditions.
Over the last couple of years, a number of vehicles came with ESC; Electronic Stability Control. It may have a different name for the vehicle you’re driving, but it basically does the same thing. It applies breaking to one of the wheels to allow the other wheels to regain traction. It’s relatively new, but a great addition to vehicle stability. When ESC detects loss of steering control, it automatically applies the brakes to help “steer” the vehicle where the driver intends to go. Braking is automatically applied to individual wheel, such as the outer front wheel to counter oversteer or the inner rear wheel to counter understeer.
Learning how to use these tools is an important job of every driver, but learn how to use them from a professional, not from the guys at work. If you do get stuck in the snow, try this.