Whether or not we care to admit it, winter is here and it’s bound to snow sooner or later. With the snow, we are going to have traffic accidents. This is because people in B.C. don’t know how to drive in the snow.

 Actually, this depends on geography. If you are from the Lower Mainland like I am, you say that people from the prairies don’t know how to drive in the snow. In Alberta, people from Ontario don’t know how to drive in the snow and so forth. People from Ontario say people in Quebec don’t know how to drive at all.

 Unlike other Vancouverites, I do know how to drive in the snow. My father taught me when I was a teenager by taking me in the family station wagon to practice skidding in the parking lot of the local shopping mall. I learned the subtle distinction between angular momentum and lateral acceleration. I learned to “steer into the skid.” I also learned the importance of traction.

 Most important, I learned how to fill out those tedious accident report forms.

 In retrospect, I suppose we should have waited until some of the shops closed. I never realized how much damage a freezer could do to the side of a station wagon. The appliance store owner should have been ashamed of himself for driving an unlicensed freezer across the icy lot while I was practising my skidding.

 I wanted to meet an expert on safe snow motoring, so I telephoned Mary Squire. She is an expert on many aspects of driving. She also knows how to drive in the snow. In fact, she teaches this skill at the Trinity School of Driving. I called her yesterday to see if she could offer a few helpful tips on safe and responsible snow driving.

 So Mary, which parking lot do you use to teach your students to practise skidding in the snow?

I don’t. In fact, I get angry when I hear that other instructors do this. That’s not teaching safety. You skid when you have to make a panic stop. There is no need to make a panic stop. The secret is to maintain a safe following distance, and keep the speed down. It is always best to not drive in the snow at all if you can avoid it. It’s better to be a chicken than a dead duck.

 How can you estimate a safe following distance?

 Under normal conditions, there should be a two second interval between you and the car ahead. In the snow this should be increased. You should also maintain a twelve second “eye lead time.” That’s the time you need to look ahead to the next intersection to decide on a safe crossing. Look ahead and anticipate.  Give yourself lots of time. That car you slam into in an intersection didn’t drop out of the sky.

 What can you do it you get into a skid?

 If your car has rear wheel drove, you will need to turn into the skid. With front wheel drive, steer to where you want to go, and ease up on the gas. It’s better to avoid skidding.

 Avoid skidding by learning how to brake. Threshold braking will allow you to stop without skidding. To do this, apply enough brake so all four wheels take hold – not lock. When the front end bows when the brakes are on, only the front brakes are activated.

 What about tires?

 The tires should have equal amounts of tread, and should be inflated to equal pressure. You will need snow tires or all season radials. Bald tires skid.

 Do people in Richmond know how to drive in the snow?

 You would think this is a loaded question, but actually Richmond has very difficult snow conditions. When the wind blows onshore, it carries salt air with it. This mixes with the snow surface, melts it, and makes it dreadfully slippery.

 The streets are also warmer, and there is often a film of water between the road and the snow. This also means slickness. When you hear someone from the Prairies brag about his snow driving achievements, he has been cheating.  Prairie snow is like sand and offers lots of traction. Put him behind the wheel in one of our Richmond blizzards, and you have a different story.

 From the mouth of an expert: check your tires, slow down, look ahead, and steer to where you want to go. These are the keys to safe snow driving. Sort of takes all the fun out of it, eh?

Here’s someone who never spoke with Mary cortesy of Youtube and King 5 News in Seattle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dooKpdIwwR4

 Mike Broderick is an Employment Specialist for the Neil Squire Society in Burnaby where he finds employment for people with physical disabilities. Part of this work means affiliation with the Vancouver Board of Trade where he is a member of the Ambassador Club, the Burnaby Board of Trade where he is a member of the Labour Task Force, the Tri Cities Chamber of Commerce where he is an active member of the 10X10 initiative, and the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce. He does some work as a field Archaeologist and is a fitness instructor and frequent contributor of fitness humour articles to alive magazine in Port Coquitlam. You can reach him at home at michael_broderick@telus.net or at michaelb@neilsquire.ca. If you’re looking for a career change, he is the Spin Doctor and can give you a resume makeover at competitive rates When he is not doing all this he lives in Port Coquitlam with his partner Cecelia.


One Response to “DRIVING IN THE SNOW”

  1. Sharon Says:

    Great advice dispensed in your usual funny manner. Great job. Richmond sounds like a nasty place to be in the winter. Seattle video – it must have been on one of those famous hills that are hard to drive even in the summer. The hills proved instructional and I was very proud the first time I reached the top without stalling my VW. After that it was a piece of cake, as they say.

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