The Science & Art of Winter Driving
The Science & Art of Winter Driving
There are few things, during the winter months, more terrifying and frustrating than driving on snow and ice. And whether it’s your first or 50th experience with winter driving season, the nerves are all the same.
Unfortunately, calming these nerves isn’t easy. Let’s explore the science and art of winter driving and the best tips for making it through the winter driving season.
Roller coasters. What do roller coasters have to do with traction during winter driving? Well, to understand traction, we need understand g-forces.
G-forces are a measure of acceleration. When you are on a roller coaster, you may experience 2 to 3 G’s of acceleration from side to side. Similarly, when you are driving, your tires possess a finite amount of grip strength. In perfect conditions, your tires possess roughly 1 G of grip.
This 1 G is represented by an area around your tire. As conditions worsen and reach the snowy, icy conditions we face during the winter, this area around your tire significantly decreases. In terms of G’s, it decreases to 0.15 G’s of traction – this is an extremely small area in which you tire has the ability to properly grip the road.
When we start applying this lack of traction and G’s to everyday winter driving we see some interesting results:
- Invest in winter tires. Winter tires significantly increases the amount of G’s of grip your tire possesses. While many believe winter tires are just a marketing ploy, we assure you they are not. We strongly recommend investing in a set of winter tires you only use during the winter months.
- Reduce turning speed. It’s crucial to remember the reality that you can’t take turns at the same speed you do in normal driving conditions. Show caution, folks.
In perfect harmony with the above information, the dreaded spin-out is something we will all face and all hate. If you find yourself in a skid:
- Stay calm
- DO NOT slam on your brakes
- Take your foot off the gas
- Steer your car into the slide, not against it (DO NOT overcorrect)
- Wait for your car to find traction before accelerating
And remember, breathe and stay as calm as possible.
Nothing leads to white-knuckle driving quite like whiteout conditions. With visibility extremely limited, there are some actions you need to take while searching for an exit with a gas station.
Slow Down [But Not Too Much]
With limited visibility comes limited reaction time. In order to avoid hitting other drivers, slow down to a pace that allows you to properly react. However, it is important to avoid such a slow speed that it actually becomes a hazard to other drivers. Feel out the drivers around you and adapt.
Make Yourself Known
It is extremely important to make yourself as visible as possible. Use all headlights (including fog lights), turn on your hazard lights (if you fall below the speed limit), and always use turn signals when change lanes.
As temperatures drop, so does the pressure in your tires. Your tires are your main connection to the road, so you want to be sure they are inflated properly and often – check your pressure at least once a month.
To find the correct tire pressure for your vehicle, you can find it on the tag within the driver’s-side door jamb or in your owner’s manual. And as we mentioned before, we highly recommend want to swap into winter tires. If not, ensure you have a safe tread depth for road conditions.
As cliche as it is, it truly is better to be safe than sorry. Make sure to keep a winter emergency kit in your car that contains:
- Shovel and brush
- Warning flares and reflective triangles
- Bag of kitty litter, or sand, for traction
- Extra clothes, gloves, hand warmers, hats and thermal blankets
- First-aid essentials
- Nonperishable, high-energy food items, like jerky, nuts, energy bars and water.