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October 27, 2002
TravelingHow to Drive in Ice and Snow

Weather Underground has predicted that we could get snow this week. I haven't driven in snow before, and since I didn't learn how to drive at my Daddy or Mama's knee, I had to figure out what do do when driving in winter conditions all on my own.

I'd thought I'd share my knowledge with you.

Burningbird's Guide to Driving on Ice and Snow

I figured out the worst hazard facing you when driving on ice is that your tires will stick to the ice and your car will come to a complete and unexpected stop. So the trick is not to let your tires stick to the ice.

When driving on ice, go as fast as you can. Not only will this decrease the chances of your tires getting stuck to the road, the friction from your quickly rotating tires will help melt the ice underneath you. Now it may not look like this as you drive, but that's just because the ice freezes up again once you're past. However, you can follow other cars as closely as possible and benefit from their tire ice melt effect.

When you stop, stop suddenly. This allows your tires to build up heat in front of them and that'll melt the ice, enabling you to come to a safe stop.

Same with going around corners -- go as fast as you can, and try and jerk the wheel as hard as possible. Doing this will cause your tires to "bite" into the ice, and give you traction. If for some reason, though, you do find yourself slipping when you turn a corner, brake and yank the wheel, to get both a friction and a traction effect.

If you're driving in snow and you get stuck going up a hill, step on the gas and spin the tires as hard as possible. This will build up a little hill of snow behind your tires and give you the push you need to get going -- kind of like those things that runners brace against before a race.

If you come to a side street that hasn't been plowed yet and looks to have considerable snow on it, don't worry! Your car is big and you'll be able to break through that snow without any problems. After all, it's only frozen water.

I know that some people say that you shouldn't drive at all in blizzard conditions, but that's the best time of all to drive: no one else is on the road!

If you do find a motorist that's ended up in the ditch, wrap a length of chain around your fender and theirs and pull them out with your little 4-cylinder engine. If for some reason this fails, tell the driver of the car to hold on to your bumper -- you'll tow them into a station (Note this doesn't work if the driver is wearing heels.)

If you do live in a wintery clime, build yourself a winter survival kit -- box of matches, can of Campbell's chicken noodle soup, and a chocolate bar should do you.

There it is: Burningbird's Guide to Driving on Ice and Snow. I hope you find this helpful.

    Note: Burningbird will not held liable if you follow these rules and your car ends up looking like an accordian ran over by a volkswagon that's being run over by a truck, being hit by a semi. After all, I'm Burningbird -- what the hell do I know about driving in snow?

Posted by Bb at October 27, 2002 03:50 PM

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I once did a U-Turn at a T-Junction where the downward part of the T was a very steep hill which joined to parallel roads like so...

-> -> ->¬
- - - - - - - - - - -
-------------! !------
! V !
Hill-> ! !
! V !
-------------! !------

- - - - - - - - V- - - -


The hill connected two roads and was only about 100 yds long but it was very steep, if you were to drive up it then you'd need to select 1st gear - that steep. Anyway I approach the junction and wish to do a U turn to return back down the road I was on, it was snowing very heavily and as I made the U-Turn the car edged close to the crown of the interconnecting road just as it began to slope downwards. I stopped the U-Turn and decided to reverse, the front wheel just spun round and I slipped a few inches further forwards. At this point Fiona decided to get out of the car to go find help to push me backwards. Stubbornly I decided to reverse again and again i slid a few more inches forwards, by this time the car is pointing decidedly downwards. Fiona finds a couple of guys who are on their way over to push me back up but I don't see them and like an idiot I decided I could gently let the car slide bit by bit down the hill, really slowly. No problem, easy. I let the car slowly move forwards and immediately hit the brakes to slow it, the wheels locked and the car turned into a 1 ton sledge, next thing I know is I'm building speed up, brakes make no difference and I'm heading straight for the bottom of the hill where cars are passing back and forth in front of me - there are buildings on either side so nobody on the road below would be able to see me until I almost pass in front of them. I'm picturing a large juggernaut approaching the junction hollywood style.

I guess i must have been doing about 15-20 mls per hour as i careen straight across the lower junction, gritting my teeth and clenching my grip on the wheel hoping that nothing is coming. Nothing did come and I gracefully slid straight across the lower road onto some grass. Put the car into reverse, backed out onto the road and wound down the window and waited for Fiona to get in, cool as a cucumber - the onlookers couldn't believe what they'd just seen.

Just as well I wore brown trousers that night.

Posted by: gary on October 27, 2002 04:23 PM

shit, the proportional font screwed my diagram.

Posted by: gary on October 27, 2002 04:24 PM

Another tip for my Driving in Wintery conditions manual! Thanks, Gary. (Note to self: add in about locking brakes on hills with ice).

BTW -- sorry about the font.

Posted by: Shelley aka Bb on October 27, 2002 04:48 PM

I grew up in New Jersey and learned as a young driver how to maneuver in inclimate weather (read:icy damn roads). When everyone around you is comfortable driving in snow and ice and know how their car handles (who says driving isn't "feeling"?) in such weather, there is little worry about something awful happening. However, when I moved to Tennessee, where not only do they not know how to drive in the dead heat of a dry summer, they really don't know how to drive when it snows. So, another tactic is necessary to stay safe and keep the insurance premium down. Just like they say abstinence is the best way to prevent STDs, the same holds true for driving in the snow in Tennessee. Abstain. Just say No. Just stay home. It's the best defensive driving.

Posted by: Ryan on October 27, 2002 06:32 PM

One thing this East Tennessee boy learned about driving in the snow is that it ain't worth the days salary to do a month's salary worth of damage to my car by trying to drive in street conditions that I only see once every three years. It's a good excuse to stay home by the fire.

Posted by: Justin Thyme on October 27, 2002 08:55 PM

Amen, Justin. Amen. Can I get an "Amen"?

Posted by: Ryan on October 27, 2002 10:03 PM

Ah, the joys of public transit. Sit in a nice warm bus letting someone else do the driving ;)

When I lived in Denver and worked in Boulder, the commute was insane. What was normally a 40 minute drive became an average of 2-3 if it snowed. The bus made that much more bearable ;)

Posted by: rev_matt on October 28, 2002 08:36 AM

A*men*, says this North Carolina girl.

My parents' house is in a little valley on the street. Lots of amusement on snow days (not that we needed any more!) watching idiots spinning their wheels trying to get up one or the other hill.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo on October 28, 2002 09:40 AM

Where's that adventuresome spirit? Where's the dare or die among us? I can't wait to get out on snow and ice and to practice my tips and techniques...

BTW Dorothea, I hope that goth-kitty is feeling better today. Snuggles from me.

Posted by: Shelley aka Bb on October 28, 2002 11:09 AM

I've really only learned three lessons from driving during in snow & ice conditions:

1. If you're in a small passenger automobile (like a Honda Civic) and passing 4x4's piled up on the side of the road, do not take your hands off the wheel to wave at them.

2. When you find yourself in a complete 360 degree (or 720, or 1080) spinout, treat it like one of the better Disneyland rides and shout out in glee.

3. On ice, if you lose all ability to control your vehicle, keep your eyes closed tight. There's really no purpose in watching what's about to happen.

Posted by: Kafkaesquí on October 28, 2002 12:22 PM

Kaf, excellent additions to the guide book. Especially that 360 degree turn one.

Sounds like fun -- can't wait to try.

Posted by: Shelley aka Bb on October 28, 2002 01:54 PM

Woo hoo! Snow and a parking lot! Tons of fun to be had with the old family station wagon. Until hitting one of those piles of snow piled by the plowing of the previous snow. Ugh, solid ice and a 68 Pontiac, the ice won.

For more wintry fun, bumper riding to the local pub is always a winner. Of course new cars with their aero-bumpers deny one the joy. It's sort of like water skiing, wait for passing car, run, grab the bumper, crouch and slide along for the the ride. Taking care, however, to avoid those dry patches at the major intersections. This is easier remembered on the way TO the pub.

As for first hand experiences, there's nothing like the abject terror of being on I-95 during a snow storm. I recall one situation that had a fellow motorist suddenly doing a complete 360 in the middle of four lanes of traffic doing about 30 mph. This is where keeping the eyes open was helpful, if just to see the absolutely terrified look in the drivers eyes as he slowly spun around. The miracle was the car ended up going back in the right direction, not having lost any real speed at all. Each fellow motorist passing offered the obligatory eyebrow raise and head shake of sympathy. Several signs of the cross were likewise exchanged. As to the condition of his shorts, one can only imagine the terror somehow introduced near superhuman sphincter control. The guy didn't open the window so his britches must've been spared.

Ah yes, driving in a winter wonderland!

Posted by: Bill Kearney on October 30, 2002 06:36 AM

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