The Sierras have seen record amounts of snowfall in the past few weeks. The LA Times reports that Mammoth Mountain has already seen several major winter storms, and the slopes are open for business with a solid base of 22 inches.
I’m excited about all the snow. I’m an avid skier, and El Niño looks like it will be keeping me deep in the powder this season. Of course, if you will be hitting the slopes this year, you know that means driving in snowy and icy conditions.
RMD Law LLP wishes you a safe holiday season, and we have come up with a list of five common mistakes that can spell disaster in winter weather.
All Wheel Drive Can Help You – It Can Also Get You Killed
Part-time four wheel drive, and its closely related cousin All-Wheel Drive can be a godsend in the snow. Cars equipped with these technologies send engine torque to all four wheels, and that means you’re less likely to get stuck on snow and ice. The danger comes from drivers who think this makes their vehicle invincible. Remember, AWD and 4WD only help your car to move forward. They make no difference if you’re trying to stop! Remember to give yourself plenty of space to slow down to avoid a car accident.
Don't Pump Your Anti-Lock Brakes
Speaking of stopping, there is a proper technique, and it depends on whether your vehicle is equipped with ABS. If your car has regular brakes and you feel your wheels begin to slide, you should pump your brakes rapidly until you come to a full stop. ABS is designed to do this same exact thing, except the vehicle’s onboard computer pumps the brakes automatically hundreds of times a second for better performance. If your car is equipped with ABS, hold the brake pedal down with firm and steady pressure, and do not pump manually.
This one is easy. It will take anywhere from 4 to 10 times the distance to stop on snow or ice. Just because you have reached the highway does not mean you can drive at normal speeds. Don’t follow too closely, and give yourself plenty of time and distance to react. Driving too fast for conditions is the number one factor in causing winter accidents.
Your vehicle carries a natural inertia that is lost when you come to a full stop. While that’s not a problem in dry conditions, in snow and on ice a full stop also comes with the risk of getting stuck. Instead of coming to a full stop, glide through the snow, accelerating slowly, decelerating slowly, and avoiding full stops. If you do get stuck, you can often free the car without getting out by quickly but gently rocking the car back and forth. Don’t spin the tires, because that will only make the problem worse. Especially if you’re stuck in the deeper stuff, you might have to dig the drive wheels out with a shovel. Kitty litter or sand under the wheels can also provide the traction you need to escape a sticky situation, so consider carrying some in the trunk if you spend a lot of time on the slopes.
Hope for the Best and Prepare for the Worst
Advanced preparation makes all the difference. Invest in a set of snow tires. The extra traction is the best way to avoid accidents on the ice. If you regularly drive the mountain passes, be aware that on some roads, the CHP will set up checkpoints and mandate tire chains, so don't get caught without them or you may be forced to turn around. Finally, make sure to address you car’s regular maintenance before hitting cold weather, because snow and ice will only make problems worse.
Overall, keep your speed low, respect the dangers of the winter roads and enjoy a happy and healthy season on the powdery slopes, while avoiding the fate of the cars on this icy hill in Portland, Oregon.