Driving in snow can be part of daily commutation or part of a “trip”. Either way there are a few basic tenets to follow for safe travel. True to the saying “forewarned is forearmed”, we should know the ‘terrain’ where we are going to travel.
Usually, safety protocols for driving are available in all places where there is regular snow fall. These are available in variety of places including hotels, car rental agencies, weather departments and police departments amongst others.
KNOW YOUR WAY
This not only means we should know the road which we are going to take but knowing the condition of the road and its usability. Some smaller roads are closed in winter usually as safety measure. We should contact the concerned officials and know the road conditions before venturing out. It is always safe to ask the opinion of the officials since they can give their expert opinion from their experience. Nevertheless, it is safe to be prepared for the worst.
PREPARE THE VEHICLE
Things to Check
- Air Conditioner
- Snow Chains
- Roof Rack
- Windscreen Wipers
Things to Carry
- Ground sheet
- Rubber gloves
- Plastic ice scraper
- Spray bottle of metholated spirits
- Warm clothes
- First Aid Kit
- Plenty of fuel
- Extra food
- Clean potable water
- Waterproof bags (in which dress and other items must be secured)
Snow chains are mandatory in many places for many vehicles and the chains can be fitted in the chain fitting bays. The snow chains change the way the vehicle responds and hence it is imperative to get used to it for sometime. The snow chains should be used where it should be used and it should be removed once clear of icy areas and snow. Using chains beyond the icy areas and snow can wear the car and in addition damage the roads.
Once the vehicle and yourself are known to be worthy of travel in snow, then the stage of driving itself comes.
Tiredness sets in more easily during driving in snow. This is because driving in snow involves intense concentration making us tired more quickly. It is important to note that we should NOT wait until we are very tired. If we wait until we start “nodding” the head, we are heading for a crash. Since the crashes happen in a split second when we doze off. Adequate night rest before starting and stopping when we suspect tiredness is important. When there are many others, it is a good idea to rotate the driving for a stretch while taking rest in the meantime.
Braking and Safe Distance
Braking on ice is less effective. The vehicle goes for a longer distance before stopping. So, it is better to keep double the distance from the vehicle in front than usual.
Visibility will be very less. Using low beam light will be better since high beam can cause ‘white out’ effect.
Snowploughs usually work on the wrong side. And we should steer clear off them.
Animals and people
There can be people working on the sides of the roads and it is not uncommon to find some animals at the sides of the road that dart across only when we are crossing them. With little visibility it is imperative to keep the eyes open for such surprises to avoid catastrophes.
- Prepare the car for the snow drive and ensure that it is ‘healthy’ enough to venture out into snow.
- Use snow chains where indicated and remove where not required remembering all the way that driving with snow chains will be different than without.
- Bald tyres and smooth ice is a great combo for crashing. If traveling in snow will be frequent, then getting winter tyres are indicated.
- Preparing yourself and checking if you are snow-worthy is important. Always go out with enough supplies including first aid kit, because we never know when it might be needed (either for us or for somebody else)
- Additional warm clothes secured in waterproof bags. (again not necessarily for us but for some other stranded traveler)
- Look out for other animals, vehicles, snow ploughs and people while traveling.
- For the above reasons (that we have to put in lots of concentration), snow driving can be very tiring and adequate rest before, if necessary, during and after the drive is important.
Happy (and safe!) driving.