Weekly five: Tips for drivning in the snow


Anson Winder jumped out of the snow and into the car to head to school.  Despite the snow on the road, he took a sharp left-hand turn at the normal speed.  Suddenly, the brakes locked and he was sliding right toward another car.  In the nick of time, his brakes caught and he was able to correct the turn, narrowly escaping a collision.

Like Winder, a sophomore from Las Vegas, many students don’t experience snow driving until they come to BYU.  These tips will help break the ice for winter driving.

1.  Be Realistic

If the winter weather brings driving conditions out of the driver’s comfort zone, then stay home.  Drivers need to be realistic about what conditions they can safely drive in, Kurt Spitzner, instructor and operations manager at Bridgestone Winter Driving School, said.

“If you feel like the conditions are too challenging for you, they are; accept it,” he said. “If you’re not familiar with driving on snow and ice, if you don’t have any training and you don’t have a car that is properly equipped for that kind of weather, stay home, don’t drive and be realistic.”

2.  Manage expectations

When drivers are already in transit and must continue driving, they need to adjust their expectations for the current situation.  Drivers need to understand with snow and ice stopping distances are going to greatly increase. Therefore, following distance should also increase, Spitzner said.  Winter weather brings dangerous factors to the roads and drivers need to respond.

“It’s not about driving slow everywhere, it’s about driving in a reasonable grip limit,” he said.

3.  Have the right tires

Knowing what type of tires are on the car is more important in winter than any other season, and the type of tire actually matters more than the type of car, Spitzner said.

“Since the four tires you have are the only connection you have between you and the road, it doesn’t really matter what kind of vehicle you’re driving,” Spitzner said. “All-wheel drive sport utility vehicles really (do) not have reasonably more traction than a small front wheel drive sedan. It’s all about what the tires can do.”

Bryan Conrad, assistant manager of Big-O Tires in Provo, said there are three types of tires, summer, all-season and winter tires. He said he recommends winter tires because they provide the traction and safety needed with the hills and the snow in Provo.

“When a winter tire works best is when it’s 45 degrees or below, that’s when the tire comes out and really does the job it needs to,” he said.”The reason we put winter tires on is to give us the traction we need and the safety we need.”

4.  Keep car in good condition

Maintaining the washer fluid levels to ensure good visibility, using good antifreeze to prevent freezing the engine and keeping a reasonable amount of gas in the tank are all relatively simple things to keep a car in good condition. According to Spitzner, winter is the most important season for cars to be in good condition.  Making sure the car starts may be enough maintenance in other seasons, but winter requires more preparation and maintenance for safety.

“Most people think, ‘Hey, I’ll put the key in and it starts’ and in the other three seasons you can get away with that to a certain extent,” he said. “Just in the winter, you really can’t. Make sure to spend a little bit of time making sure you have everything you need.”

5.  Be prepared

Keep an ice scraper, bottles of water, a blanket and some snacks in the car in case of an emergency. Sliding off the road may leave the driver stranded for a while and emergency supplies may sustain until help arrives Spitzner said.

“Even if all you do is have a couple of protein bars in the glove box and a couple of bottles of water in the trunk and a blanket or two, that can make a difference,” he said.”

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