Did you find any useful, practical tips about driving in adverse weather conditions in the Driver’s Manual you read before your driver knowledge test? Yes, there is something about safety when driving on a slippery road or during heavy rain and snow. Still, basically, the manuals give general recommendations about adjusting to specific driving conditions. So, you can hardly gain deep knowledge of driving on an icy road while you practice the driver knowledge test. Behind-the-wheel experience is more useful, but it is rather dangerous to obtain it without being prepared in advance. On the other hand, you can practice the permit test and, at the same time, get prepared by reading helpful tips from experienced drivers. We collect the most common of them, starting from how to avoid dangerous situations and ending with how to act when you get on black ice.
Get Your Car Ready For Icy Conditions
- Winter tires are a must.
Did you learn something useful about snow tires when you were studying for your driver knowledge test? If you didn’t, then you may believe that the larger tread pattern provides better traction with a road surface. In fact, tires with smaller but tightly put tread patterns and many sipes are the best choices for winter. Besides, snow tires are made of softer rubber that retains its flexibility even in cold temperatures, thus ensuring better traction. But even these tires can’t guarantee safety driving on an icy road since during sliding on the ice, a traction coefficient is reduced by half. Under wheel lock-up, a driver loses control over a vehicle, which doesn’t respond to steering. And that's why studded tires are the best option for icy winter roads. So, if there is a warning of icy roads, don’t hesitate to replace your usual tires with studded tires.
- Clean and check.
Most likely, you've already read about checking and cleaning a vehicle before driving when you were learning for your learner permit knowledge test. But these general recommendations become critical when it comes to driving on an icy road. You really need to be careful and provide good observance, so it is necessary to clean all car windows and mirrors from dirt, snow, and ice. Don’t forget about the lights and make sure they are working properly. Imagine that you have to practice the driver knowledge test in a real-life environment and check all the elements mentioned in the Driver’s Manual – brakes, windshield wipers, engine, and steering system.
From Your Driving Knowledge Test to the Behind-The-Wheel Practice
Well, your car is ready to get on an icy road, and here is your first and very important task:
- Start smoothly.
In winter, an accident can happen even when you are trying to take off. On a slippery parking lot, your vehicle may be thrown into nearby cars immediately after its wheels began moving. Therefore, start smoothly and even use a higher gear to avoid such an accident.
- Find the right speed.
Note that the speed depends on your vehicle type since SUVs show more road stability than wagons and sedans, while hatchbacks are less stable than wagons and sedans. Since it is very difficult to choose the right speed considering all factors, you can experiment with finding a free and safe part of the road near your house. Reach the speed you believe to be safe and then apply the brakes – estimate your breaking path and correct the speed according to the experiment results.
- Keep your distance.
Did you find out the way to calculate the optimal distance while preparing for your driver knowledge testing? We will help you to fill this gap, if any: multiply a vehicle speed (in km per hour) by two, and you will find a recommended distance (in meters).
- Don’t make any sudden and sharp movements by the steering wheel or pedals.
Keep in mind that any aggressive maneuver, acceleration, or braking can lead to skidding on an icy road. Thus, smooth movements are preferable in any maneuver: accelerate gently, turn slowly, and brake carefully and in advance. There is a little trick you can train in-vehicle after you practice the road rules test, pass it, and get your permit. Try and drive, avoiding making any movement from the very beginning to the end: brake and turn smoothly, in small portions, alternating brake and steer. In such a manner, you will be able to control the vehicle, and if something goes wrong, you will have more space to correct the situation.
- Slow down using pedals.
If your car has a manual transmission, use your engine for safe control over the speed. When you need to slow down, reduce the gas pedal's pressure while pressing the clutch pedal, downshift, and then depress the clutch pedal again.
- Turn in the right direction.
The common mistake during car sliding is to turn the steering wheel in the direction, which is opposite to the sliding direction. This means that if you feel the rear of your car slides to the left, you should turn the steering wheel to the left, too.
- Control the steering wheel.
Hold the steering wheel tightly and keep it straight. To better feel your car behavior, observe your hands' correct position, keeping both of them on the wheel.
- Don’t panic when skidding.
While studying for your driver knowledge exam, learn an algorithm of actions in case of skidding. If your car features ABS and it skids a lot, press the brake pedal firmly, and the vehicle will pump the brakes for you. If there is no ABS in your car, pump the brakes gently, steering the vehicle in the direction you need your car to go (the problem of pumping is discussed in Driving on Ice: To Pump or Not to Pump). Sure, it is better to practice this algorithm just like you practice the driver knowledge exam - in advance.
In fact, experienced drivers have many more useful tips about driving in adverse weather conditions to share with young drivers. You can find some of them in our 10 Tips on How to Pass Advanced Driving Test Caused by Aquaplaning, as well as other helpful articles you can read while getting prepared for your driving knowledge test.