Never in a million years would I imagine the day I would be blogging about how to drive in adverse weather conditions. Yet here I am a few thousand miles East of the coast I called home for over three decades, and snow happens every once in a while.
But wait, I know how to drive in snow and ice! My experience was not as frequent as some, but we did have these conditions in parts of California. My first experience with these slippery surfaces was shortly after I turned sixteen. My friend Erik Kane invited me with his family to Lake Tahoe. Being new to driving, I opted to take my own ride.
And what ride was that? It was a 1988 Suzuki Samurai 4x4 handed down to me from my brother (not for free). It might not have been the first vehicle of choice for such adventure, but it was light and had 4-wheel drive which is a good combo.
Erik and I got up early in the mornings during our vacation to do rally-style laps around the neighborhood of the cabin we were staying in. We soon found snow is not as soft as one may think when running into a snowbank at 25mph by car. I lost a few driving lights, but it was all in the name of fun...and being young and naive.
Fast-forward to my college years in San Luis Obispo. The snow wasn't as close as it was while living in the bay area. The nearest for us was Sierra Summit, a 3+ hour drive from SLO. Several trips with friends gave me some drive-time to learn how a vehicle reacts on snow,slush, and ice.
When it comes to driving instructions (on specific elements), I say keep it simple. Example; a few years back I visited Ireland with a few friends. After landing in Shannon, we took a shuttle over to the the rental company.
The kind shuttle driver gave me a brief bit of advise as I stepped off, he said with an Irish accent, "We have roundabouts...just remember to look right, turn left". This was a simple, yet extremely effective statement of advice. Driving a left-hand vehicle on the left-hand side of the road can be a little hairy, roundabouts add a whole other level of stress to the situation. That's where his words of advice proved priceless for me.
So I say this to those that are venturing through "the white stuff"; brakes make you slide far, gas makes you slip in place. It's a world of opposites really.
By hitting the brakes you are deliberately putting the vehicle in a hazardous situation. Lightly applying, or tapping the brakes will save you from an uncontrollable slide .
The same applies when applying the gas. Even, smooth pressure is best. You gun the gas and you are likely to end u getting nowhere, your tires will just spin in place.
Thankfully most manufacturers have systems tied into the on-board computer that will execute the above in such a situation. Traction control is one (TC), electronic stability control is another (ESC). So don't turn such features off while driving on any unstable surface (i.e. dirt, sand, snow, ice, grass, etc.). And every little bit helps when driving.
Remember to always be safe and unless necessary, stay off the road.