Yes, it is possible to remain calm and you can even feel reassured if you follow a few winter driving rules.
Because braking is very important, especially when you are driving in such terrible road conditions, let’s begin with a few basic rules. First, our right foot should always be placed vertically, out heel on the floor and not completely lying on the pedal. “This way, we can break smoothly without using the ABS and that allows to break on a shorter distance”, says Guy Lahaie, a former driving instructor who, among other things, test drives for tire companies. We met him this fall, as he was testing traction on ice for Hankook Tire winter tires and four-seasons tires.
To be able to judge if you want to use Mr. Lahaie’s method or not, you must first understand the basic function of ABS brakes. Some cars are not equipped with it but it will become standard in 2012 so you might as well learn everything about it now…
The main benefits of ABS brakes (anti-block system) are to remain in control of your vehicle in an emergency braking, not to reduce the braking distance. The ABS slightly releases the brakes while conventional brakes completely block the wheel. Therefore, the anti-block system allows you to remain in control of your vehicle while avoiding the hazard that is in front of you.
You must keep that in mind on icy and snow covered roads because the breaking distance is increased by the ABS and the wheels that are not blocked keep turning and remain on the surface, in a floating motion.
According to Mr. Lahaie, on those slippery surfaces, “it is best to use what we call threshold braking: you must brake earlier and, while maintaining your heel on the ground, slowly and carefully press the brake as if you were squeezing an orange.”
Moreover, it is best to avoid pumping the brakes – even if we do by reflex – because it destabilizes the car and can make you loose control.
As for the wheel, professionals suggest to keep your hands in a 9:00 and 3:00 position and not 10:00 and 2:00 like driving instructors used to say. This position allows to manoeuver 180 degrees without dropping the wheel. Mr. Lahaie also says that, this way, you will not hit your own face with your arms if the airbag is deployed.
And if you get the feeling that the back of our car is sliding, just keep an eye on where you want to go, says Mr. Lahaie.
It is understandable that turning, braking and the general behaviour of our car depends on tire grip. Winter tires have a better grip than other tires and that is why they are recommended by most specialists and that four seasons tires have been forbidden since 2008 during the winter season in Quebec between December 15 and March 15.
Check your tires pressure and, if necessary, adjust it to the level prescribed by the manufacturer. The pressure decreases by 1.5 inches for every decrease of 5 °C (9 °F) of the temperature.
Snow banks and parking
Parking during the winter can become quite a headache, especially after a storm!
So if you need to go in a big city – especially in Montreal where parking and traffic are very difficult – you can see what you are getting yourself into by consulting the dynamic map of Operation snow removal.
You could also keep a light sleigh in the car so if you have to park far from your destination and you have to walk for a long distance with your children, it will make things less painful, maybe even much more fun for the kids!
And if you are already disgusted by the idea of looking for a parking spot for hours, your best option remains public transportation. If you are too far, you can combine driving and using public transportation.