Winter driving survival guide

Students drive cautiously down University after a heavy snowfall the day before. The rain washed away the six inches of snow that had previously fallen. (Cody Finney/ The Arbiter)

With the arrival of winter weather in the Treasure Valley, it’s time for Idahoans and out-of-towners alike to review safe winter driving tips to ensure all students make it through this weather intact.

The Treasure Valley experienced its first significant snowfall of the season on Wednesday and according to KTVB.com  between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m., 106 traffic accidents were reported for Ada County. This does not include the 75 slide-offs and the additional 33 traffic accidents reported in Canyon County.

To avoid becoming an accident statistic, there are a few suggestions every driver should heed, even with a 4-wheel drive vehicle.

The most essential tip is to SLOW DOWN.

Although some people have experienced driving in snowy or rainy conditions, other drivers can have a tendency to perform some unsavory maneuvers that can affect vehicles around them.

It’s easier to react to other vehicles when maintaining a reasonable speed.

Other ways to avoid accidents this winter can be as simple as increasing the following distance behind other vehicles.

Weather.com  recommends an additional three car lengths to maintain a safe stopping distance.

According to Idaho law, “The driver of a vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicle, the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”

When the time comes to make a stop, do not slam on the brakes, especially on snow or ice.

The safest way to reach a complete stop depends on the kind of brakes installed in your vehicle. Standard brakes should be pumped gently. With anti-lock brakes (ABS) apply steady pressure. The brakes will pulse gently, which is normal. If the vehicle starts to skid or slide take your foot off the gas pedal.

As the car slides, turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If the rear wheels slide left, turn the wheel left. If the rear wheels slide right, turn right.

It may take a series of turns to correct the slide and regain complete control.

For vehicles that get stuck in snow, slush or icy spots, here are some tips that can help get your vehicle free.

First: stay calm.

Don’t lay on the gas. This will cause the tires to spin out and the vehicle to become more bogged down.

Instead, turn the steering wheel from side to side a few times. This will clear excess snow away fromthe tires.

If necessary, use a shovel to clear additional snow from the tires and undercarriage. You can also pour sand, salt, rocks or kitty litter under your tires for increased traction.

Put the vehicle in gear and gently ease on the gas.

If that doesn’t work try rocking the vehicle back and forth, however, before you do, Weather.com recommends checking the vehicle’s user manual.

In some cases, rocking can cause damage to a vehicle’s transmission.

Winter preparedness is never a bad idea and for students who have a commute it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for the worst.

Other general tips for safe winter driving include:

• Turn on headlights for increased visibility.

• Make sure the windshield is completely clear of snow and ice.

• Use a lower gear. It will increase traction, especially on hills.

• Do not use cruise control.

• Use caution on bridges, overpasses and roads with infrequent travel. Even in temperatures above freezing, ice patches can form in shaded areas creating slick spots.

• Keep extra water and non-perishable snacks in the vehicle.

• Stash sand or kitty litter in the trunk.

• Invest in an ice scraper and snow brush.

• Keep a first-aid kit in case of an emergency.

 

About the author  ⁄ Amy Merrill

Amy Merrill

Amy is a senior at Boise State and the current news editor for The Arbiter. She crammed everything she possibly could into a single degree; a dual major in communication and English, a journalism emphasis and a political science minor. She is eager to earn what she calls, "that expensive piece of paper" on May 18, but in the meantime is focused on bringing campus as much news as humanly possible.