Winter is the most difficult driving season. Not only do you have snow and ice to deal with, but there are fewer hours of daylight. To help keep your drivers safe behind the wheel, reinforce these guidelines from the New York state Department of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Manual:
- Before winter arrives, make sure that company vehicles are good condition, especially the tires. Don’t get caught without snow tires in the first snowfall. Never combine radial and non-radial tires on the same vehicle. With front-wheel drive cars, put snow tires or “all-season” tires on all four wheels.
- Clear the ice and snow from your vehicle, all windows, and windshield wipers. Fill the windshield washer reservoir with a freeze-resistant cleaning solution.
- Drive slowly. Even if your vehicle has good traction in ice and snow, other drivers will be traveling cautiously. Don’t disrupt the flow of traffic by driving faster than everyone else.
- To avoid skids, brake carefully and gently on snow or ice. “Squeeze” your brakes in slow, steady strokes. Allow the wheels to keep rolling. If they start to lock up, ease off the brakes. As you slow, you might also want to shift into a lower gear.
- You can usually feel a loss of traction or the beginning of a skid in a rear-wheel drive vehicle – however, there might be no such warning with a front-wheel drive. Although front-wheel drives handle better in ice and snow, they do not have flawless traction, and skids can occur unexpectedly. Don’t let the better feel and handling of a front-wheel drive car cause you to drive faster than you should.
- Despite a popular misconception, the best approach to recovering from a skid is the same for both front and rear-wheel drive vehicles. If your rear wheels start to skid, turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control. If you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), keep your foot on the pedal. If not, pump the pedal gently, pumping more rapidly as the vehicle slows. Braking hard with non-anti-lock brakes will make the skid worse. If your front wheels skid, take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but try to steer immediately. As the wheels skid sideways, they’ll slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in Drive or release the clutch and accelerate gently.
- When sleet, freezing rain, or snow starts to fall, remember that bridges, ramps, and overpasses are likely to freeze first. Also, be aware that slippery spots might remain after road crews have cleared the highways.