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6 things to know to drive more safely in snowy conditions

On behalf of Dolan + Zimmerman LLP February 5, 2019

“We see a lot of people from all over the country who have grown up in the Snow Belt and have years and years of driving experience and in reality have just been lucky because their technique leaves a lot to be desired,” says the director of a driving school in Steamboat Springs.

If you’re struck by another car during heavy weather, it may seem like nothing could have prevented the crash — but drivers have a responsibility to drive safely under prevailing conditions. How much do you know about how snow changes the risks of driving? Here are six things to think about:

1. The biggest issues are speed and underestimating how long it will take to stop. Focus on slowing down overall and giving yourself more time to stop.

2. Warmer snow is more slippery than colder snow. A researcher at the Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory says that, at an air temperature of 30 degrees Fahrenheit, snow pack is approximately five times more slippery than it would be at 0 degrees. Tires can also melt snow. Wet snow acts as a lubricant, preventing tires from getting a good grip.

3. Accelerate, turn and slow down smoothly — and separately. Most people are used to how their tires perform on dry pavement, where they can speed up sharply, make sudden turns and slow down suddenly. On a slippery surface, tires have much less grip, and they can lose even that with any sudden moves. One crucial tip: Slow down before trying to make a turn, as opposed to braking while turning. Imagine your car taking smooth, tiny steps to avoid slipping.

4. Your four-wheel drive won’t save you. What four-wheel really helps with is acceleration in challenging conditions — getting moving from a complete stop or climbing a hill. This technology does not assist much with braking or cornering, and those are the most dangerous moves to make in snow.

5. For snow, the best winter tires are much better than the best all-season tires, according to a tire tester for Consumer Reports. They have a special, gripping tread design and are made of a rubber compound that stays more pliable in the cold.

6. Consider any antilock brake action as a signal to slow down. If your antilock brakes or stability control system kicks in, “you as a driver have made a mistake and the electronic nanny has stepped in to try to save you from that,” says the driving school director.

No one wants to be in a car wreck, especially one involving injuries. If you are, be sure to contact an experienced personal injury attorney for an evaluation of your case.