Winter driving tips

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BYU’s diverse campus attracts students from all over the world. For some, a move to Utah introduces a dramatic change in climate and an adaptation to cold-weather living.  Utah’s  winter season brings a lot of snow and ice and student drivers need to brave the cold and learn winter driving tactics.

Bridgestone Winter Driving School, in Steamboat Springs, Colo., operates seven days a week from mid-December to mid-March. The school has been running for 29 years and holds classes on topics varying from safety and performance to trailering on ice. The school has hosted students from all 50 states – as well as 15 other countries.

Mark Cox, director of the Bridgestone school, shared some of the tips they give their students.

“One of the most important things is to realize that it takes from four to 10 times longer to stop on ice and snow,” Cox said. “So as a driver you have to look four to 10 times farther ahead so that you can identify problems and respond accordingly before you become involved.”

Cox also said one of the biggest pieces of advice drivers can remember is to use every resource they have to gain control where there is little traction.

“Because you have so little traction on ice and snow, it’s important that you manage it as perfectly as you possibly can,” Cox said. “One of the easiest ways you can do that is since you only have three controls, steering wheel, brake and gas pedal, only use one at a time and be one 100-percent effective at that thing. If everyone on the road used that very technique it would definitely prevent a lot of accidents.”

Another tip Cox said is one many don’t understand: slow driving isn’t always the answer.

“It is important for everyone to adjust their speed to conditions, and that doesn’t necessarily mean just slow down,” Cox said. “A driver going too slow because they’re poorly equipped is just as much of a problem as a driver who is trying to go too fast.”

Not only do drivers need to react properly on the road, but it’s also crucial that drivers prepare their cars for the worst, Cox said.

“One of the main things is to check your tire pressure,” Cox said. “For every 10 degrees in temperature loss, you lose one pound of pressure in your tire.”

Not only can drivers get advice from the professionals, but natives and rookies to the brutal weather have tips of their own.

Karen Wilson, a Utah resident for 14 years, advised scraping the ice off each window entirely. Wilson was in an accident one winter morning with another driver who had not scraped the ice off her windshield. The other driver was ticketed.

“If you do not scrape your windshield really well, you can be cited,” Wilson said.

Donald Corbett, a junior in the accounting program, said during his drive back to school last Thanksgiving, he hit an unexpected patch of black ice.

“After making the drive through the mountain passes, I was relieved to no longer see snow,” he said. “Little did I know, the roads were coated with black ice. One moment, we went from driving up a hill, to doing a 720 and sliding off the road into the ditch.”

Corbett said this driving experience was rattling as well as educational for him.

“I learned that although there may not be any snow on the roads or in sight, be careful when the temperature is below freezing with wet roads,” he said.

Kira Taylor, a senior studying public health, said although she has only been in Utah a few years, she has learned a few valuable hints to winter driving.

“Definitely get your oil checked when the seasons change,” she said. “Also, make sure to keep enough space from the car in front of you in case you start sliding or have to break suddenly, especially in heavy traffic since things happen unexpectedly.”

These few basics may seem like common sense, but can make a big difference in everyday winter driving situations.

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