Everything You Thought You Knew About Driving on Snow Was Wrong


Here is a brief excerpt from an article by Christopher Jensen for The New York Times. To read the complete article, check out others, and obtain information about deep-discount subscription rates, please click here.

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Ogden Nash described winter as “the season to be young, catching snowflakes on your tongue.” Sure, snow days are fun for children, but for drivers, wintry weather is a hazard.

The problem is that driver education classes typically gloss over what makes winter driving different and how to avoid and handle skids, said Tim O’Neil, the founder of Team O’Neil, a rally-driving school in Dalton, N.H., that also teaches winter driving.

That’s why even people who have been driving for decades can make crucial mistakes on snowy roads, said Mark Cox, the director of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

“We see a lot of people from all over the country who have grown up in the Snow Belt and have years and years of driving experience and in reality have just been lucky because their technique leaves a lot to be desired,” Mr. Cox said.

The biggest problem is speed, and not knowing it will take much longer to stop, experts say. Here’s some other advice to avoid slip-sliding away.

The amount of grip available on snow can change sharply depending on the temperatures, said James H. Lever, a researcher at the Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H.

Warm snow is weaker and gives way more easily, so tires have a harder time getting a good grip, he said.

“As temperatures warm up, it gets more slippery. It is a big effect,” he said. For example, when the air is 30 degrees Fahrenheit, packed snow is about five times more slick than it is at zero degrees.

Researchers say when a tire begins to slide across the snow at higher temperatures it is more likely to melt the snow. That water then acts as a lubricant.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Christopher Jensen
is a freelance writer for The New York Times and New Hampshire Public Radio, Staffer at InDepthNH.org.

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