Clearing up winter driving myths


Remaining safe on the roads is the responsibility of all drivers. However, sometimes there are a few driving myths that can add to the risk of losing control of our vehicle. Despite what advice our family and friends give us, we need to find out the facts before using their advice. Here are a few winter driving facts we should all get straight.

One of the common misunderstandings regarding winter driving and 4-wheel drive vehicles is that they are better in the snow. Yes, they can and will provide greater acceleration than a front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive vehicle. However, some people believe that it provides better traction on snow-covered roads.

The reality is, having winter tires installed on your vehicle is what allows the driver to have better control over their vehicle to help them stop, accelerate, and to steer safely and smoothly on snow-covered roads. Regardless of having winter tires, if the driver is driving too fast for the conditions, the 4-wheel drive will not save you. It doesn’t give you better braking ability. Slowing early with poor winter road conditions is what helps you control the vehicle. You need to reduce the energy the vehicle produces from its forward motion. The 4-wheel drive gives you the power to your wheels, not the traction. Remember that it’s the tires that give you traction

Something else to remember is many 4-wheel drive vehicles will come with large, wide tires. Because of the larger surface area of these tires, they won’t really dig through the snow as efficiently as tires that are thinner than those tires even though the tread depth appears to be good. These tires can actually do a form of “hydroplane” on top of the snow, which can produce a slide of the vehicle while you’re steering and braking.

The addition of anti-lock brakes many years ago, or ABS as they are commonly known, gave drivers an added benefit. ABS can help the driver stop while under more vehicle control in an emergency and can also allow the driver to brake and steer simultaneously. Snow-covered road conditions however do not allow the driver to stop any quicker while using ABS. This is because the wheels will have a lock-release motion when activated. A locked wheel does not stop you quicker, so the ABS will release the locked wheel to allow the wheel to rotate, giving you traction to control the stop. This action is roughly 18-20 times per second to allow you to maintain vehicle control while braking hard, which is quicker than any human can do.

Pumping the brakes was a braking technique used by either our parents or grandparents many years ago. It’s what they knew and ABS was not around at that time. Yes, it helped to control your vehicle while braking on snow-covered roads, but it took a long time to stop the vehicle. It’s time to let modern technology help you become a safe driver. However, adjusting your braking by slowing sooner is the smart move because even ABS can’t always save you.

Learning how to use these tools properly is an important job for every driver, but learn how to use them from a professional because sometimes what you may be hearing from family or friends is really a myth and not fact.