With the first snowfall comes of one life’s greatest anxieties: sliding your car all over the road. As a native flatlander myself, it is a particularly tense time of the year for me. My second snowy season in the mountains, I was driving up the summit during a storm one night. It was pitch black and I was nervous to continue, but my roommate convinced me to keep driving. As the car approached the summit, I realized I wasn’t giving it enough gas. As I tried to gently press down the accelerator, I felt the car losing it. As we started to spin, I froze, my roommate and I exchanged wide-eyed glances, and looked back at the black spinning abyss in front of us. The car made a complete circle. To the surprise of us both, the car was unscathed. I tried laughing it off, but my hands were shaking and my stomach swirled with worry.
Every time the snow flies, I think back to this moment. As soon as the wheels start rolling though, I realize that fixating on my anxiety won’t help me get from point A to point B. Driving in the snow is much like snowboarding for me. There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness. You must not let the runs get the best of you, but you must not think that you are better than them. Be humble and steady. The scared driver loves their brakes and 10mph. A cocky driver loves their accelerator and besting others on the road.
So, what’s right when the road is white?
AAA guides us with these tips:
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads. To brake, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
- Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
- Keep extra distance between other cars.
- Don’t power up hills and don’t stop going up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
- Stay home if you aren’t comfortable driving with the road conditions.
Other tips found from personal experience are to make sure you have winter tires or appropriate tread, carry chains, understand how to put chains on, and, if you start to slide and think you might lose it, aim for snowbanks. Most important to remember: remain calm.