“Get a Grip! Don’t Loose Your Cool”
Snow and ice hold many dangers for drivers. The most obvious is the lack of grip between the tyres and the road surface.
It’s very easy to be lulled into a false sense of security when sitting in a nice warm car, but it’s winter and it’s freezing out there and so there are likely to be icy patches! The grip of the tyres can be broken by any sudden movement, this is why driving on very slippery surfaces requires careful and delicate use of the car’s steering, brakes, accelerator and clutch.
The best advice for drivers in winter is ‘stay at home’! Especially in icy weather – ice, unlike snow, is not always easy to see. The first sign may be an eerie silence. This will be coupled with light steering. If this happens, allow plenty of time to stop (up to ten times your normal stopping distance).
To reduce the risk of wheelspin and consequent sideways skids, use the highest gear that it is practically possible.
Move off in second gear, change to fourth or fifth gear early. It’s OK if your car grumbles a little bit – in fact, the nearer to stalling it is, the more grip you have.
When you first drive in snow, try and find an empty car park, or similar location, and ‘play’ for a while by driving in circles, etc. This will give you a feel for your car’s ability to grip the road and improve your control skills.
Moving off in snow and ice is best done using the highest gear possible – this will usually be second gear. If you encounter wheel-spin, ease off the gas, otherwise you will simply ‘polish’ the snow and ice, making it more slippery. ‘Rock’ the car back and forth to get it moving (by using the clutch, up to move forward and down to roll back). Once you are moving, keep your speed down and use the highest practical gear. Gentle use of all controls is essential. Always leave plenty of space between yourself and the car ahead, otherwise you may end up being stuck (literally) behind less skillful drivers.
If you get stuck stay in your vehicle but be careful about keeping the engine running – there is a real danger of fumes filling the car and so you must ensure that there is a good clear area for the exhaust fumes to dissipate (you might have to clear snow to do this). Only run your engine for about 20 minutes in each hour.