In their Up North song “Sirens,” Petoskey’s Michigan Rattlers sing about the hypnotizing effects of winter driving, how the snow–or other winter weather–can be a driver’s undoing if the hands on the wheel are not steady.
Lucky for us, there are proven ways to manage this seasonal necessity.
The fine folks at AAA, who know a thing or two about driving, offer a few winter driving tips that start with auto prep.
First things first. Vehicle prep is critical. Keeping your tires properly inflated, for example, means better traction on slippery roads. As well, forget the cruise control when the road turns icy, as your feet on the gas and hands on the wheel are your best bets for knowing when to slow or steer.
Once you’re behind the wheel, there are other ways as well to play it smart once the snow falls. Consider a shovel and jumper cables in the trunk or the truck bed because winter can be the most dangerous time to get stuck outside and low temps can drain a battery more quickly. You might also find these accessories helpful when assisting someone else. A blanket or an extra jacket are also useful should you find yourself waiting-or helping in the dark cold.
In Northern Michigan, snowplows are a common roadway feature from November and December through March and April. Take care to give these helpers a wide berth. Remember too that the plows are often times spreading sand, so be sure to stay back far enough to avoid sand or worse on your windshield.
Another winter concern is how snow and slush can grab tires on even the truest tracking vehicles, so be ready to take your foot off the gas and steer out of trouble. Never brake at the first sensation of swerve. The best move is to take your foot from the gas and steer into any swerve until the vehicle again moves where you intend.
Experienced winter drivers also know how other AAA suggestions are useful too, such as avoiding stops on an incline if possible. You might also fishtail when accelerating on an uphill incline. The smart move on hills is to maintain speed and spacing as much as possible until the terrain flattens out again.
Unpredictable winter weather means what used to be rules for a few months can now apply for longer stretches of the year. Last spring, for example, some of the toughest winter driving came with April’s heavy snows.
Whatever the coming winter brings though, smart drivers—those most likely to avoid accidents—are those who know the terrain, the modifications to make when conditions change, and those who know their vehicles.
As the Michigan Rattlers explain, “I’ve been seeing cars in the ditch all day/ But I ain’t going that way/ It’s like a siren song/ I ain’t singing along/ Today ain’t gonna be the day.” Here’s wishing today ain’t gonna be the day for you—or me—either.