Tonight I had to make a drive that everyone hates–the return trip home in the ice and snow. Being from central PA, where there’s an hour-long drive to ANYWHERE, I’ve driven my fair share of icy roads, and I’ve lived places where the drivers were far worse than they are here. I was lucky tonight, there weren’t many people on the roads, but on my way home, I thought about different things I’ve learned that make my driving in the snow/sleet/freezing rain a little easier on all the other fools on the roads with me.
2.) Just because your vehicle says 4×4 or 4WD or AWD on it does NOT make your vehicle “better” on a snow-covered highway. You can’t stop any faster with a 4WD vehicle than you can with anything else. 4WD helps you when you have a crappy driveway on a hill like mine, and you can’t ever seem to get enough traction to get out. It also helps when you’re driving in the woods to your camp and most of the road is two mud ruts or two bobsled tracks. See rule number one if you can’t get this through your head.
3.) Don’t try to do any of the following too quickly:
This works even on I-80 between Lock Haven and Jersey Shore. If you maintain a safe speed and don’t try to do anything in a hurry, chances are you’ll be just fine. Stay back from the person in front of you and don’t be the jackass that passes everybody at 70mph. When the people whom you pass see you sitting backwards in the median, as long as you’re not hurt or dead, they get smug satisfaction out of seeing your car disabled and that you crapped your pants.
4.) Ever see the sign that says, “Bridge freezes before road surface”??? Well, there is a point to that. There’s no ground under those bridges, but do you know what there IS?? A whole lot of freezing cold wind. And when you have a huge mass of concrete above a big old wind tunnel, you’re going to have a huge mass of REALLY COLD concrete on your hands–colder than the roads before and after the bridge. Don’t GO, STOP, or TURN too fast on the bridge or you’re spinny-spinny, go-go into a tree, or a ditch or somebody in the other two lanes of the interstate.
5.) Don’t try to judge HOW icy a road is. If it’s wet, and it’s cold, err on the side of caution. It might look like slush, but guess what slush is made of? You guessed it–ice and water! You know what black ice looks like? Great! Have a cookie. These same pieces of advice apply to wet roads, even in warmer temps.
6.) Worry about the other guy. Even on a divided 4-lane highway, there’s a chance you could meet up with an eastbound driver when you’re headed west if it’s snowing or icy out. You can’t help the way somebody else drives, and sometimes accidents are just that–accidents, but many times, they can be prevented by driving defensively.
7.) Anti-Lock Brakes are SUPPOSED to feel like something is broken in there. That’s the only way I can think of to describe it. The first time I put on the anti-lock brakes, I was in Philly, driving with my wheels on the snow-covered trolley tracks. They engaged, and I thought I screwed something up, so I took my foot off the brake and nearly wiped out into something. It felt like I had just tried to brake with marbles in my brake pads or something. It was weird, but that’s just the way it feels, so just remember this when you feel like nothing can possibly be right with the way those brakes feel. If you stop, they did their job.
So there you have it.