Jan 13, 2010

Winter Driving Tips

Winter storms make for slippery roads. Here are some tips on keeping your car on the straight and narrow and you and your passengers out of the trauma center.

Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning occurs when the vehicle is driven too fast to handle the amount of water on the road. The tire treads are unable to channel all the water out from underneath, and the tires start to water-ski. When tires lose contact with the road surface, they don't respond to the steering wheel. If you are driving on a straightaway, you may be hydroplaning without knowing it. To avoid hydroplaning, make sure your tires have plenty of tread, keep your speed down in wet conditions, and don't use cruise control in the rain. If you feel your vehicle becoming unresponsive to the steering wheel, don't apply the brakes. Smoothly lift your foot off the accelerator and allow the vehicle to slow until your tires grip the road again.


Black Ice

Stay alert for changing road conditions, and adjust your speed accordingly. Roadways often glaze over with a thin layer of "black ice." Watch for black ice on bridges and at underpasses and other shaded areas. Black ice is virtually invisible and nearly impossible to predict. If you see ice forming on trees and roadside structures, it's likely to be on the roadway also, even if you can't see it. It takes twice as long to stop on ice as it does on dry pavement, so slow down well before you reach an intersection.


No Skidding!

Don't be complacent because your vehicle is equipped with four–wheel drive. Four-wheel drive won't help if you hit a patch of ice and go into a skid. The best way to prevent skidding is to SLOW DOWN, and drive smoothly. Turning, braking, or accelerating too sharply can cause you to skid out.

When you go into a skid, your vehicle continues in the direction of its inertia, and without a firm grip between your tires and the road surface you lose control. If your vehicle fishtails, you may be able to pull out of the skid and regain control by turning into the skid. To turn into the skid, release the brakes, and then turn the steering wheel to align your tires in the direction you want to go. As your vehicle turns back in the right direction, you may need to quickly steer the other way to prevent over-correction and skidding towards the opposite side.

If you go into a skid without fishtailing and your front tires plow ahead at an angle, brake gently, and then back off your steering slightly to allow your tires to adhere to the road again.

Many cars are equipped with Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS) that help prevent skidding. ABS is a computerized system that automatically determines when a wheel is about to lock up, and instantly modulates the braking force of each wheel so that the tires continue to adhere to the road. This has an effect roughly equivalent to the technique of pumping the brakes to prevent skidding in a car without ABS. Don't ever pump the brakes on an ABS-equipped vehicle.