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The first snow of the season just past and we have had sub-freezing nights already.  So what does that mean to you and I. Well the obvious is we’re all cold.  Brrrrrrr!!!!

What else does it mean? It means ominous things like black ice and slush, snow, freezing rain, falling leaves and so many other scary factors that can cause even the best of drivers to lose control of their car. So what do I do to make sure I don’t have any problems?  STAY HOME, DON’T DRIVE!

But that’s not always an option and besides that’s the easy way out. You need to learn what to look for to avoid a problem and how to regain control of your car if you lose control.

Avoiding a problem

Speed

There are many ways to avoid losing control of your vehicle in bad weather.  Let’s start with the most obvious. Slow down. Just because the sign says you can do 55 does not mean you have to go 55.  The slower you go the more control you have on the vehicle.

Observation

Black Ice– Listen to the weather report before you venture out in your vehicle.  Even if it has not rained or snowed, if the temperature has fallen below freezing, black ice can still form on the road.  What is black ice you may ask?  It’s when moister on the road freezes with a thin layer of ice that, because of the black color of the road, makes it impossible to see it’s there. So why does it freeze if it has not rained or snowed?  If you are driving in the morning you may have some moisture appear on the road as the sun rises like dew in the summer.  It leaves just a little bit of water which then freezes if it’s cold enough.  The same can be said as the temperature falls at night and whatever water there is on the road may freeze. Have you ever seen the signs on a bridge that says bridge may freeze before the road? As the wind blows across an exposed bridge the temperature may be lower on that road surface then the rest of the road causing black ice. What should you do? This one is hard to see but not hard to predict.  Usually it’s only a small amount of ice so if you lose control and stay calm you should be able to get control back pretty fast

 Wet Leaves– Wet leaves are almost as slippery as ice.  If you ever try to run on them you most likely know what I mean.  Imagine a car trying to stop on wet leaves. It can be ugly.  This is tricky because once you hit a patch of leaves there can be a whole bunch of them on the ground.  If you are driving near a lot of trees and it’s a busy road most likely the leaves are no longer on the thoroughfare but if it’s a quiet road with a lot of trees go slow.

Freezing rain-This will cause the road to ice up much faster than you can imagine.  You need to make sure you have a lot of space between you and everyone else.

Slush-The most deceiving of all, this combination melting ice, snow and/or water can really take your car for a spin that is almost impossible to get out of.  You have to read the road and be very cautious. More slush will appear on the sides then in the middle of the road.

Ice- the most obvious of all the potential pratfalls, try driving on a skating rink. This is something you must avoid. But like all things you need to avoid now I will tell you how to recover from them

Recovery

With all the possible bad weather driving scenarios above they all have a common thread on how to get out of them when you lose control.First, be aware of your surroundings at all times, even more so in bad weather. Ask yourself how close am I to the person in front of me? How close is the person behind or on the side of me?  Is there a shoulder on the road that I can pull off if I have to? Constantly be asking yourself these questions while you’re driving. Always check your mirrors. Slow down even more if you are too close to the person in front of you or the person behind you is too close. Remember, if you slow down they have to also.  Don’t ever slam on the breaks unless you are about to hit something.

Steering out of a spin

If you start to lose control and the car starts to drift or spin you must stay calm and remember the one basic rule.  Always steer the car in the direction you want to go.  If the front of the car starts to spin to the left then you would need to steer back to the right to keep the car going down the road in the direction you were heading. If you are spinning to the right then steer left.  Don’t over steer, just feel for the control and try to get your car back to the direction you were heading.

Braking

This is not a black and white kind of answer.  First you need to know what type of breaking system you have in your car.  Do you have ABS (Automatic Breaking System) on not?

ABS Brakes

ABS brakes help prevent you from locking up your breaks in a skid when you slam on the breaks and will help prevent you from skidding more, if you use them correctly. When you start to skid or lose control with ABS brakes you must step on the brake hard and keep them fully depressed. Do Not pump the brakes!   The system should automatically sense when to back off of them enough to prevent you losing control.  The main problem with ABS brakes is that they do not stop a car as quickly as non-ABS brakes so you should always leave more room from the car in front of you and slow down,

Non ABS braking

You will need to be able to sense the feeling of when to fully depress your brake and when to come back off of them. This takes a little more skill than ABS brakes.  Don’t just slam on your brakes when you lose control, if your brakes lock up you will not be able to regain control of the car in a spin.  Brake a little and then back off a little, brake a little more and back off.  It is a dance, once you feel the car starting to lose control again you have to back off steer back in the direction you want to go and break again.

Summary

I can’t tell you how to drive, just suggest how to prevent you from losing control and help get it back if

you do. So to summarize in bad weather:

A: Listen to the weather report and be prepared

B: Be aware of your surroundings at all time, front, back and sides

C: Have a plan in your head of what to do if you start to lose control or if someone next to you does

D: Scan your environment for pitfalls (black ice, wet leaves, ETC)

E: Know your vehicle. What type of braking system, do I have ABS brakes and or skid control

F: Drive accordingly. Slow Down!!!!

G: Recover out of any problems, don’t panic!

H: Pull over when you can if you do lose control and take a deep breath.

Remember, your car is an extention of you when you are in control. If you remain in control, you should be able to regain control of your car. The best way to avoid any issues is to SLOW DOWN and be careful. Or if you’re like me “stay home and sleep”.  Best of luck out there.