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Advanced Snow/Rain Driving Skills

As a professional rally driver who has seen more than his share of snow-bound wild rides, I will proffer the following advice to anyone who drives poorly in the snow:

Find a large, empty lot (warehouse parking lot, large retailer, etc) during the night when they're closed and the lot is full of snow, mush and ice. Now practice the three primary maneuvers:

Remember, I'm not where you are, so you have to be responsible for your own safety -- training, good equipment and common sense are the three keys. And make sure the parking lot isn't filled with parking stops before trying anything... Note that these tactics also can then be applied to any slippery surface -- sand, dirt, rain, cobble stones, gravel.

(A) Acceleration Skids: drive straight at full acceleration with the hands next to, but not touching the wheel. Does the car start to sway, skid or pull to one side? When it starts to give, here are the rules:

  • For rear-wheel drive cars, slightly oversteer into the direction you want to go and remove your foot from the gas. This should allow you to recapture control.
     
  • For front-wheel drive cars, point the car exactly where you want to go and increase the gas slightly (so the wheels pull you out of the skid), then remove your foot from the gas as soon as you are going in the direction you wanted to go.
Practice this maneuver until you feel confident that you know exactly where she's going to give.

(B) Loss of Direction Skids: driving straight with the hands on the wheel, pull the wheel hard to one side and remove your foot from the gas.

  • If the back end starts to come around (i.e. - slip out from under you), use the methods listed in A to recapture your control.
     
  • If the entire car starts to skid (i.e. - all 4 wheels are not facing the direction of travel - known as a four wheel drift), you have 2 basic choices:
    - swing the back-end around the rest of the way to stop facing the other direct, or
    - try to steer back into the skid.
    Unless the surface is really slippery or you are most of the way around already, steer back into the direction of the skid, because doing otherwise can cause you car to flip if it's top heavy or you hit something solid at groundlevel.
If you get a 4 wheel drift/skid, you might want to get better tires for snow & ice driving and slow down your speeds to avoid it.

(C) Braking Skids: first try driving straight, and then with your hands off the steering wheel, apply the brakes -- slowly in the first pass and hard in the second pass. You'll get three things out of this -- whether the car wants to brake straight, whether the ABS activates to help properly, and a feeling of where the tires will loose stiction (similiar to traction) and start to slide in relation to brake pressure. Practice braking until you are confident you can call exactly where the car will stop and how fast you can get it to stop without loosing control. Then start practicing the same maneuver with a lane change in the middle of braking without losing control (usually done best if the brakes are partially released when you go to change lanes) -- this will start training you to think of alternative braking paths (such as into the grass or a lane without traffic backed-up) in times when you need more braking distance in any weather condition.

For a finallé, do some donuts and intentional skids to practice advanced skills, such as intentionally swinging the back-end away from something or doing a bootlegger reverse*.

(* note: bootlegger's reverse -- driving forward, pull the wheel hard to the left while simultaneously giving a hefty push to the gas pedal and yanking up on the parking brake handle for a second, then returning it. Done right, this should suddenly have you facing exactly 180 degrees from the direction of travel you were going... Really a handy maneuver if you're being followed.)

Remember, I'm not where you are, so you have to be responsible for your own safety -- training, good equipment and common sense are the three keys. And make sure the parking lot isn't filled with parking stops before trying anything... Note that these tactics also can then be applied to any slippery surface -- sand, dirt, rain, cobble stones, gravel.

In a message dated 7/17/99 12:33:47 AM, someone wrote:

>I suck at winter driving.

 

 
 

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