Driving in snow can be pretty, and pretty damn dangerous as well! It was reported and confirmed by metro police that two lanes were closed on William Nicol drive in Johannesburg on Thursday because there was ice on the road.
Few drivers are comfortable driving on snow and ice. This is something seldom experienced on South African roads, and mostly only in specific parts such as the Eastern Cape. We have shared advice on the page Driving in Winter , but since most drivers have a lack of experience on driving in these conditions, it is important to share on the Car Insurance Blog some advice and safety tips from our road safety friends in other parts of the world.
It is always best to avoid driving in these challenging conditions if possible, and rather to stay at home. Unfortunately for many drivers this is not an option, and they have to be on the roads. We would like to share advice on how to correctly deal with driving in the snow. These tips are provided by an international driver with a vast experience of driving on snowy roads.
- Get a grip. To have adequate snow traction, a tire requires at least 6/32-inch deep tread, according to The Tire Rack. (New passenger-car tires usually have 10/32-inch of tread.) Ultrahigh-performance “summer” tires have little or no grip in snow. [Those living in snowy areas in other parts of the world might have special snow tyres.]
- Make sure you can see. Replace windshield wiper blades. Clean the inside of your windows thoroughly. Apply a water-shedding material to the outside of all windows, including the mirrors. Make sure your windshield washer system works and is full of an anti-icing fluid. Drain older fluid by running the washers until new fluid appears.
- Run the air-conditioner. In order to remove condensation and frost from the interior of windows, engage your air-conditioner and select the fresh air option: It’s fine to set the temperature on “hot.” Many cars automatically do this when you choose the defrost setting.
- Check your lights. Use your headlights so that others will see you and, we hope, not pull out in front of you. Make sure your headlights and taillights are clear of snow.
- Give yourself a brake. Learn how to get maximum efficiency from your brakes before an emergency. It’s easy to properly use antilock brakes: Stomp, stay and steer. Stomp on the pedal as if you were trying to snap it off. Stay hard on the pedal. Steer around the obstacle. (A warning: A little bit of steering goes a very long way in an emergency) If you drive on icy roads or roads that are covered with snow, modify your ABS technique: After you “Stomp” and the ABS begins cycling — you will feel pulses in the pedal or hear the system working — ease up slightly on the pedal until the pulsing happens only once a second.
For vehicles without ABS, you’ll have to rely on the old-fashioned system: You. For non-ABS on a mixed-surface road, push the brake pedal hard until the wheels stop rolling, then immediately release the brake enough to allow the wheels to begin turning again. Repeat this sequence rapidly. This is not the same as “pumping the brake.” Your goal is to have the tires producing maximum grip regardless of whether the surface is snow, ice or damp pavement.
- Watch carefully for “black ice.” If the road looks slick, it probably is. This is especially true with one of winter’s worst hazards: “black ice.” Also called “glare ice,” this is nearly transparent ice that often looks like a harmless puddle or is overlooked entirely. Test the traction with a smooth brake application or slight turn of the wheel.
- Remember the tough spots. Race drivers must memorize the nuances of every track, so they can alter their path for changing track conditions. You must remember where icy roads tend to occur. Bridges and intersections are common places. Also: wherever water runs across the road. Drivers have lost control on ice caused by homeowners draining above-ground pools and by an automatic lawn sprinkler that sprayed water onto a street in freezing temperatures.
- Too much steering is bad. If a slick section in a turn causes your front tires to lose grip, the common — but incorrect — reaction is to continue turning the steering wheel. If the icy conditions end and the front tires regain grip, your car will dart whichever way the wheels are pointed. That may be into oncoming traffic or a telephone pole. Something very similar happens if you steer too much while braking with ABS. Sadly, there are situations where nothing will prevent a crash, but turning the steering too much never helps.
- Avoid rear-tire slides. First, choose a car with electronic stability control. Fortunately, ESC will be mandatory on all 2012 models. Next, make sure your rear tires have at least as much tread as your front tires. Finally, if you buy winter tires, get four.
- Technology offers no miracles. All-wheel drive and electronic stability control can get you into trouble by offering a false sense of security. AWD can only help a vehicle accelerate or keep moving: It can’t help you go around a snow-covered turn, much less stop at an icy intersection. ESC can prevent a spinout, but it can’t clear ice from the roads or give your tires more traction. Don’t let these lull you into overestimating the available traction.
[Advice from Mac Demere]
It remains most important to adjust speed to the driving conditions. Drivers need to be alert to the road conditions and allow them more time and space to avoid safety threats. Failure to do so might lead to more than just car insurance claims, but could also lead to loss of life!
Also view on the Arrive Alive road safety website: