Kevin Frisch: How to drive in the winter weather
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen snow storms, freezing rain, temperatures in the teens, 40-mph winds, and sleet- and slush-covered roads. And winter is still a snowball’s throw away.
So a review of safe winter driving tips seems to be in order. So does a pitcher of rum punch. But first things first.
* What to do in a skid: If you drive anything like I do (and for the sake of your insurance bill, not to mention the heart rate of your passengers, let’s hope you don’t) you may occasionally find yourself in what is known as a “skid.” Skids are easy to define. If your headlights are not the first segment of your car heading down the road, you are likely “skidding.” Either that or you can’t get your car out of reverse.
There are two key strategies for handling skids. Option One (which we’ll call “Option One”) requires the driver to carefully unbuckle his or her seatbelt then leap into the back seat until the vehicle has come to a complete stop (or until spring, whichever comes first).
The second option (which, for clarity’s sake, we’ll call “Option One”) calls for the driver to “turn into the skid,” a very helpful maneuver providing you know what it means. I always turn the wheel the wrong way, which is how, upon finding myself in a recent skid, I managed to get the car under control only after spinning 180 degrees. This not only further complicated matters regarding which way to “turn into the skid” (Option One), it rendered somewhat pointless jumping into the back seat (Option One).
Happily, this particular predicament came to an end when I slid off the road and provided some additional — and, according to the occupants, entirely unnecessary — ventilation to a nearby mobile home. (Happily for me, I mean.)
* Equipping the vehicle: Winter driving calls for special equipment, particularly for your tires. If you don’t have snow tires, you’ll want to acquire either “studs” or “chains,” which can be purchase at most automotive stores or ordered from ads in the back of seedy magazines.
In addition, always be prepared in the event your car won’t start. In your trunk, be sure to store blankets, boots, flashlights, reading material, something else we can’t think of, clean underwear and a spare car.
* Before you head out on the road: Be sure to clear your windshield of all ice and snow for maximum visibility. Don’t worry about wiping all that snow off your roof or trunk — it will blow off once you’re driving, adding to that festive, snow-a’-flying atmosphere for your fellow drivers.
In the event you lose traction and get stuck in the snow, be sure to have salt stored in the trunk. (That’s what we were trying to think of!) Salt melts snow. Deeper snow may require several shakers. Another tip: You can improve your traction by storing something heavy in your trunk. A fruitcake, for instance.
* Winter driving etiquette: Some motorists are more comfortable driving through inclement winter weather than others. You can usually tell which ones because they’re in these huge SUVs, two inches from your bumper, flashing their brights. It is important, no matter how overwhelming the temptation, not to jam on your brakes, lest you find yourself in a skid. (See Option One. Or Option One.) According to the Miss Manners book “Etiquette on Wheels,” it is proper, when accosted by one of these drivers, to reduce your speed to somewhere around 8 mph, the better to serve as a right-minded example of how one ought to maneuver in dangerous conditions. If you listen closely, you can often hear the driver behind you yelling “THANK YOU!” Or something close to that, anyway.
* Winter driving alternatives: With dangerous conditions afoot (awheel?) and so many rules to remember, the best course of action over the next few months may be to avoid driving altogether. Which is just as well, since we all know drinking and driving don’t mix. And given the choice when faced with wind-whipped snows and icy roads, which would you rather be doing?
Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch’s column, “Funny Thing ....” appears each Sunday. This revised column was originally published in December 1989. Contact him at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 257, or at email@example.com.