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Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:04 PM

Driving through this weekend's storm

Okay, so there's a storm coming up the east coast. Some are calling it a nor'easter, but it's not coming from the northeast. Anyway...

I live in northern New England and have dealt with driving in snow my whole life (including some very, very, nasty storms). But for people who encounter it rarely, as might be the case with this upcoming storm, I can offer some advice.

To keep you safe:

1) Don't drive unless you have to. Many people have to, and I recognize that. But if there's any way you can camp out, do so. I won't get into tricks about power outages or stuff. That's a separate issue.

2) If you need to shovel out your car, keep the tailpipe clear. Every year or so we hear a tragic story of someone warming up their car with their kid in it, but not shoveling out the tailpipe, and inevitably someone dies of carbon monoxide poisoning (like the kid from 2 years ago waiting while his dad shoveled out the car).

3) Drive VERY slowly - at least, keep about double the response time (braking distance, etc.) you normally have.

4) Your SUV does not make you invulnerable. The opposite of Johnny Cash's gun song, it won't get you into trouble (that's your problem) but it'll help get you out. I can't tell you how many times I've gone up the highway in a storm and have been passed by SUV's or pickups (SUV's seem to be worse) only to find them two miles up the road off in a snowbank. 4WD doesn't make up for safe driving.

5) Sometimes your danger is more from other cars, even if you're the safest driver around. I won't do any sudden maneuvers (like move into traffic), even if I normally might, because the person coming down the road might slam on the brakes and spin out, causing an accident. If you can't move quickly and safely, there's no reason to suspect the other person could either.

6) Don't underestimate snow drifts. If you drive down the middle of the road and your wheels on one side catch a drift, you can still spin out.

7) Although many cars are front-wheel drive, not all are, and rear-wheel drives are more likely to spin out. Also, particularly in the southern states, there's probably more bald tires than you would find further north; combine that with people having not much experience with driving in snow, and you have a recipe for an accident. Not that everyone has that problem, but you only need one to make your personal life miserable. And it's not you, it's them.

8) Try to brake BEFORE a snowcovered area. Often there's clear roads, and then a little patch of snow, then more clear roads. People tend to brake on the snowpatch, which is actually the worst place to do it. Brake before the snowpatch. Do not have your car do anything tricky (turn, brake, etc.) on the patch if you can do it before. This is also very true of road ends (stop signs or red lights). Often there's snow there and people who wait to brake when they might normally might find themselves sailing past the stop sign into oncoming traffic.

9) Changing lanes can be very dangerous. You can't just swing out to the left (or right) when there's a strip of snow down the middle of the lane (or across all lanes). The speed and/or braking, combined with the lateral movement can easily send you down the snowbank (and if you think being up a snowbank sucks, try being down). In a bad storm, it might easily take me a quarter mile to change lanes safely.

10) That said, hitting a snowbank is usually better than hitting another car. Hopefully all you'll need is a tow out.

11) Keep your car gassed up; not only does this provide coverage if you get stuck, but it also helps protect the tank (reason: an empty tank can form condensation, eventually rusting out the tank. It's not a major problem for the occasional storm, but it's one less thing to have to worry about).

12) Every move, even if you've done it on dry roads a million times before, needs to be done much more slowly and deliberately that you would in dry weather.

If even one of these helps one person, it will have been worth it. Stay safe and warm.

23 replies, 1672 views

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 23 replies Author Time Post
Reply Driving through this weekend's storm (Original post)
Tab Jan 2016 OP
Blues Heron Jan 2016 #1
JudyM Jan 2016 #2
Tab Jan 2016 #6
Glassunion Jan 2016 #8
Tab Jan 2016 #13
Glassunion Jan 2016 #18
JudyM Jan 2016 #22
Warpy Jan 2016 #3
Tab Jan 2016 #4
MiniMe Jan 2016 #5
Tab Jan 2016 #7
ms liberty Jan 2016 #9
Tab Jan 2016 #11
Tab Jan 2016 #10
Takket Jan 2016 #12
Tab Jan 2016 #15
PasadenaTrudy Jan 2016 #14
enough Jan 2016 #16
bullwinkle428 Jan 2016 #19
Tab Jan 2016 #21
bullwinkle428 Jan 2016 #17
Tab Jan 2016 #23
ChisolmTrailDem Jan 2016 #20

Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:08 PM

1. coastal storm, wind out of the NE

Noreaster. Not a reference to the track per se, but what the prevailing winds are during it.

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Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:11 PM

2. Plus, if you start to skid/slide, 13) don't slam on your brakes and 14) do steer in the direction of

the skid/slide till you regain control, *then* steer back on course.

Both of these run counter to our normal reaction but are important to minimize the loss of control.

Good luck, everyone!

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Response to JudyM (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:23 PM

6. It's hard to say now

The old adage was to pump the brakes rather than stand on them, but traction control now suggests you just brake and let the car figure it out. I have a variety of cars, so it's different for each car, but I find it easier just to take it slow and not get into the situation in the first place.

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Response to Tab (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:27 PM

8. Screw that... Turn off the TCS, turn into the skid, and gas that f*uker hard.

RWD makes this way more fun...

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Response to Glassunion (Reply #8)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:52 PM

13. If there's no one else on the road

and you have AAA, I'd go for it too.

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Response to Tab (Reply #13)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 02:04 PM

18. I like your attitude!

I have a wonderful vehicle. On dry or wet roads it has amazing handling. I can say with all honesty it is the best designed and safest car I have ever owned. However on snow, you have to put winter tires on. Period. First winter without snow/ice tires it was terrible. Of course it's rear wheel drive. It would drive okay in the snow, and the TCS would keep me on the road if there was an issue... But getting it going from a total stop was damn near impossible. I'd put a decent amount of weight in the trunk to help, but it just would not do the trick. For fun that first winter, I found a wide open parking lot, turned off the TCS, and simply tried to drift around. It was near impossible, it was like trying to drive in the rain on slicks, there was zero traction. I was amazed at how brilliant a good TCS system is.

I now have a set of Blizzak on all 4 tires. Those are amazing. I got detoured last winter when I went to pick up my wife from work. She couldn't drive home because of the snow... She also has RWD (we have no sensible vehicle). I had two options... Either try a very winding and steep hill, or go about 1/2 hour around the closed road. I barely struggled at all going up that hill.



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Response to Tab (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 02:16 PM

22. Just called my mechanic to recheck this. She said brake a little harder than you normally would,

tapping will achieve a similar result (the car's computer will know what's happening either way) but definitely don't slam on the brakes.

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Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:12 PM

3. And if you do get stuck out in the middle of nowhere and have to call for a tow truck

and run your engine to keep the heater on, do check the back of the car and clear that tailpipe. Folks have died from not doing that, too, especially when the tow truck has been a long time coming.

Going slow is key. I can't tell you how many jokers in 4WD SUVs have blown past my second gear self on the Interstate, honking and giving me the finger, only to have me pass them within a mile after they've done doughnuts into a guard rail. I just smile and keep going while they stand next to their banged up SUV on their cell phones.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:20 PM

4. Yeah, that was points 2 and 4

and like you, although I'm not sure where you are, I've commuted up and down the highway for years and have SUVs blow past me only to see them a few miles up the road up (or down) a snowbank.

I made the tailpipe #2, but it can't be overstated - people have literally died - often in tragic circumstances - from not keeping it clear. I referenced a kid from a couple years ago - I think he might have been 14 - but his father was trying to keep him warm while he shoveled out the car, only to die from carbon monoxide poisoning. It's an easy mistake to make, but can have horrifying results. I can't even imagine how the father felt.

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Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:20 PM

5. And where it is hitting worst, people aren't used to the snow

I live in DC area, and most people are clueless about driving in the snow. We don't get enough of it for people to get good at it.

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Response to MiniMe (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:27 PM

7. That's probably 90% of it

The rest is that no one in that area has an incentive - and I don't necessarily blame them - to have decent tires. Up north, it's simply a requirement, but if you live in a regularly non-snow area, it's easy to blow them off. My summer car is 35 years old; the tires are probably crap, but I don't drive it in the winter anyway. But if I had to take it out in the snow, I'd actually try not to - despite experience in the snow, the car is simply not a winter car and I'd be nuts to take it on the road if I had an alternative.

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Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:29 PM

9. I live in the NC foothills

We're predicted to get at least 9-12 inches; when water happens they call us the I-40 corridor (I'm north of I-40). It is supposed to start here around midnight, and once I get home from the grocery store this evening, I plan on driving nowhere until at least Sunday. I grew up on the west coast of Florida, and 30 years here is not enough snow driving experience for me, lol! We don't get snow very much here. mr liberty's truck is in the shop, and his rental is a Corolla of all things. Useless in a rural area with as much snow as they're calling for.

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Response to ms liberty (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:35 PM

11. You can be safe in a Corolla

if your tires are okay - your big danger is everyone else on the road that doesn't know what they're doing. Camping out is best. Hope you have power! Stay warm.

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Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:33 PM

10. Oh, and I should add...

Keep your headlights on, and brushed off, as well as your brake lights. If no one can see you, it's just that much more of a problem.

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Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:52 PM

12. Great points all....

I have practiced pretty much all of these in Michigan and can personally vouche for their effectiveness.

I own a RWD (big mistakes, never again! it was something I never even thought about asking). It is a large Mercury Grand Marquis. When I stop at a traffic light, virtually ANY pressing of the gas makes the wheels spin. People always tailgate me off the start line because they think I'm accelerating too slow for their tastes. it can't be helped, its just my car. Pack your patience in the snow. If someone if speeding up or just traveling too slow for your tastes, too bad. No one is obligated to put their lives and the integrity of their vehicle at risk for your impatience. Pass if you must at your own risk, but tailgating is just BEGGING for an accident.

The thing I would add is to make sure you maintain your momentum, and try to keep in flow with the rest of traffic. You don't want to gas or break unless you absolutely have to as changing speeds in the snow if very difficult. If you need to slow down, do so way ahead of time.

The place to really watch your momentum is on a hill. I almost lost control one time because the person in front of me was driving so slow and afraid to try and speed up at all on the hill. I was watching my speed tick down... 25... 20... 15... I think it was about 10 by the time the hill crested and I barely had enough speed to get over the top. any slower and I would have gotten stuck because there was no way to get enough traction to speed up from a stop. If the person in front of me had simply eased the gas enough to maintain 25 their momentum would have carried them right over the top of the hill, without risking needing the deeply press the gas to built lost speed. if the hill was a little longer, we both would have gotten stuck.

Same thing applies for going down a hill. ride your break as needed to maintain a safe speed. don't let your foot on and off the break and ping pong back and forth between speeds.

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Response to Takket (Reply #12)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 02:01 PM

15. Actually, another important point

is that a light covering of snow can be worse than a heavy covering. If the area doesn't get a lot of natural moisture, the oil from the cars works its way into the pavement. Then, even with a light snow (like a fraction of an inch) the oil gets drawn up and the roads are ridiculously slippy. You can't equate the amount of snow with the safety.

In fact, the few accidents I had actually happened when I was quite young and the snow had a very thin cover.

With your hill point, I fully agree. I particularly remember growing up coming down a long hill - the grade wasn't too awful, but it was a hill nonetheless. It was a very thin cover. I wasn't experienced enough then, and my car started to slide basically uncontrollably. There was a snowbank in front of a house at the bottom of the hill, on the left, and there was a river on the right. Luckily I at least steered it into the snowbank. I don't recall whether or not I had to get a tow, but at least I wasn't in the damn river.

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Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 01:58 PM

14. I would be so screwed

if I was back there. Never driven in the snow or on ice. Wimpy native Angeleno. Be safe everyone!

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Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 02:01 PM

16. There's one situation in which just driving slowly is not the answer.

If you're going up a slick hill, you can go so slowly that you lose momentum and stop, or even slide backward. In my area (SE PA), this is the number one problem with drivers in snow and ice. You can get a whole bunch of drivers stuck behind you on a hill, and nobody is going to be able to get going again once everybody is stopped. It can be a real mess, especially if there is also traffic going DOWN the same hill.

If traffic allows, I try not to start up an icy/snowy hill if there's anybody driving too slowly on the hill ahead of me.

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Response to enough (Reply #16)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 02:06 PM

19. I've seen that situation lead to interstate blockages on I-80 here in Iowa,

and it was a semi that precipitated the back-up.

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Response to enough (Reply #16)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 02:09 PM

21. Yes, good point

and you can't speed up on the snow, so you have to get as fast as you can on the dry - obviously a problem if no one else is doing it - it's less accident-prone than going downhill, but it certainly sidelines a lot of cars. The one I normally drive I need to get some speed to get it up the hill. Often I'll just slow enough to let the cars up front get ahead before I floor it on the dry, because I need the momentum to get to the top.

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Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 02:04 PM

17. I've seen TONS of evidence to support #4! In addition, snow tires can be

very helpful as well, but again, they don't make you invulnerable. I slow down signficantly, even with quality snows on the car.

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Response to bullwinkle428 (Reply #17)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 04:02 PM

23. I can't reasonably suggest you get snows

although they're certain helpful, but for one storm a year, it's hard to justify. Plus, everyone would rush to get them on, making it impossible to actually get a set in time.

I now just run fresh all-weather's. Snows would be better, but the expense is kind of prohibitive. Tires are the one thing I normally try to keep good, because they're the only thing holding you to the road. There's no way I could run them bald, I'd never get anywhere during the winter.

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Response to Tab (Original post)

Thu Jan 21, 2016, 02:07 PM

20. To the Greatest! Thank you, Tab. nt

 

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