I nearly got in an accident this morning on my way into work, spinning out of control on the expressway and crossing two lanes to wind up on the left shoulder. Thankfully, I hadn’t landed in the 2+ feet of snow in the median, meaning I was able to do a 45 point turn and maneuver my way back into oncoming traffic.
As the adrenaline coursed through my veins and I reminded myself to check my draws to be sure I hadn’t soiled them before heading to my classroom, I took inventory of the number of drivers — drivers who should know better — I had seen committing snow driving crimes as well as pondered my own indiscretions, and I felt compelled to lay out a few winter driving musts as a reminder of what to do when the Devil’s dandruff comes down with fury (take heed, friends in the South; you may very well find yourselves in another snowy situation this winter).
1. SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. Jesus. I don’t care if you have 4 wheel drive or if you own a Jeep or if you’ve recently purchased top-of-the-line snow tires. Mother Nature doesn’t give a shit. You can’t go 70 in a blizzard. You just can’t. If you slow down, chances are the rest of us won’t have to suddenly brake when you flip your conversion van.
2. Get off everyone’s ass. You might like to get up close and personal during the summer months, but winter isn’t the time to suck on someone’s tailpipe. The closer you are, the more abruptly you’re going to have to stop when they do (and the more likely you are to get in or cause an accident). Leave double the room you’re supposed to between your car and the one ahead. You can manage to avoid inviting yourself into their back seat until April.
3. Just stick to the lanes everyone else has created. It’s possible the road you’re traversing normally has 3 lanes, but in a snowstorm, you’re going to have to settle for just the one that previous drivers have managed to carve out with their tire tracks, even if that lane doesn’t match up with the yellow lines 3 inches below the powder and ice.
4. Anticipate and accept the rolling stop. Some of our vehicles refuse to obey our commands in icy conditions and others won’t ever gain momentum again if they completely stop at a red light or stop sign, so come to terms with the fact that we will roll through stops (sometimes on purpose and sometimes not) and be on the lookout. It’s one of the cardinal “snow rules.”
5. Don’t panic. Mad props to the experienced winter drivers behind me today when my car caught the ice and sent me spinning. Instead of losing their minds, they simply slowed down, got out of my way, and continued about their business after I’d come to an abrupt halt just outside the lane. A single slide-off does not mean everyone’s doomed, nor does it signal the need to lock into crisis mode and abandon ship immediately.
6. If you do start to lose control, it’s best to go with it. I don’t have any statistical evidence of this other than the certainty of every male in my family and my driver’s ed teacher, but it’s safe to say that overcorrecting when a vehicle loses control contributes to far worse accidents than riding it out. If you turn the wheel frantically left and right and slam on the brakes simultaneously in an attempt to right the situation, the car or truck is bound to react just as violently, winding up flipping or crashing into things it might normally not have. Stay calm until what’s happening is done. Then you can freak the fuck out (and no doubt will).
7. Don’t do anything except drive. No texting, eating, applying makeup, fidgeting with the radio, reading, setting the GPS, smacking the kids in the back seat, or reaching for your smoldering cigarette. Eyes on the road. I’m looking at you, buddy.
8. Expect that at any moment the people around you are going to come veering into your lane, are going to come to an unexpected stop, are going to spin out of control, or are going to not be paying attention to what they’re doing. Defensive driving is key. If those people behind me today hadn’t been prepared for anything, they’d have slammed into me or lost control themselves.
9. Relax. It’s possible to be aware and on the lookout for trouble and also to not sit on top of the steering wheel like a jackrabbit on a crystal bender. The tenser you are, the tenser your driving is. Just calm down and be careful. And I don’t mean careful as in psychopathic.
10. Swear and yell obscene insults at other drivers frequently. This does nothing to physically help your vehicle perform better in the snow, but it sure does feel good. REALLY DAMN GOOD!
What other winter driving rules do you follow?