Speed Kills

Everyone is trying to enjoy the last of their summer vacations and many are rushing to new locations for the school year. Help everyone get to their destinations safely by slowing down and being courteous on the roadways. Remember speed kills.

Speeding poster

One thought on “Speed Kills


    Some people seem to think they can drive down the road at 120 kph with the snow flying if they are sporting new snow tires. Indeed, they can but, they have no time for reaction, they lose control as soon as something appears around them due to “tensing up (fear)” or eyesight distraction and they can no longer stop within anything even close to their normal expectations. Police forces have advised for years: “It’s not the day of the snowstorm when the big crashes happen, it’s the day after when the sun comes out.” Most of the time in Southern Ontario, the snow is gone from the main roads on the day after. The hundreds of smaller crashes that occur during snow times is just the poor driving habits of people who normally don’t think while they’re driving. They continue on as if it is summer. Now, that’s a habit you should strive to squeeze into your brain: THINK ABOUT YOUR DRIVING WHILE YOU ARE DRIVING, ALWAYS!

    So, Nicky you might say, what’s this “snow driving secret”? It ‘s the way you should drive in any kind of condition including snow, rain, sleet, wind or hot sunny summer weather. You MAKE NO SUDDEN MOVES! You NEVER ACCELERATE HARD; you NEVER BRAKE HARD; you NEVER TURN HARD and you NEVER DRIVE HARD. You adjust/drive for the conditions! You KEEP A LARGE SPACE-CUSHION BEHIND OR AWAY FROM TRAFFIC around you so that you can make smooth moves and give lots of signal warning time to others. That’s the basics and really, all there is to it.

    When you want to go up hill, you accelerate gently and you keep it steady. Along with steady steering, you will overcome just about anything. Even breaking through big snow berms left by snow ploughs can be accomplished if you think about it ahead of time and prepare to react with the steering once you’re through. If you stop that momentum, you’ve had it buddy, wherever you are in snow. All you are now is an obstacle for somebody else to try to get around.

    It is so simple. Slow and steady is the answer. The more slippery the surface, the slower and steadier you go. Once you’re into the snow, you make any needed corrections with the engine and steering, not the brake. Locked brakes act like a toboggan and you slide without control. If a hill is total ice, stay where you are, go around or take a break until it melts.

    Slowing down requires observation skills. You have to know far enough ahead that you will need to slow down to back off gradually. No sudden moves and very light braking, if any. When the time comes for you to actually come to a stop you should be just crawling along so that your tires stop the vehicle without sliding.

    The same when handling bends in the road. You BACK-OFF, AHEAD OF TIME, to a speed slow enough to handle the curve.

    Some of the other things to consider are bridges, UNDER YOU THAT FREEZE FIRST, or OVER YOU THAT CREATE SHADOWS from the sunshine making slippery spots. JUST BEFORE AND JUST AFTER STOP SIGNS AND TRAFFIC LIGHTS are often icy because other drivers either slide to a stop or spin the tires while accelerating away.
    Wind that will blow snow across a clear road ahead of you? Again, no sudden moves! Try to hit the snow straight on and consciously continue to drive straight through it without changing speed or direction. ALWAYS LOOK TO WHERE YOU WANT TO GO (in any situation, not just in snow).

    Another little secret: If you are in deep snow and you have as little as 3 inches of vehicle movement without spinning your tires, you are not stuck! Using the transmission and the brake or clutch, allow the vehicle to roll forward on its own until the snow pile stops you; apply the brake and change into reverse; this time allow the vehicle to roll backward until the snow pile stops you again. Repeat this procedure a number of times without spinning your tires and the vehicle will eventually break down the snow underneath, ahead and behind your vehicle creating a channel. Once your channel is long enough, you can gently add pressure to the accelerator to increase “pushing” of the snow making a longer channel. When it is long enough, you just gently drive away. Patience and keeping the tires from spinning is your only requirement and you or your spouse/kids are not out in the cold pushing in the snow either. There is no chance of your kid falling under the wheels! Driving a truck with a tag axle might prove to be a little more difficult unless you can lift that axle under load.

    This is all very well and good but, there will be times when you estimate poorly and get into a skid. We all do it. Always look to where you want to go and steer in that direction. They refer to this as “steering into the skid” but, above all else, make sure you are looking toward where you want to go and NEVER GIVE UP STEERING. You must, of course, maintain that empty space cushion around you so that you have manoeuvring space and some place to go.

    Neutralize the skid! If you drive with an automatic transmission your drive wheels are always under power. Without touching the accelerator on a summer day, the vehicle will begin to move when you put it into gear. The wheels are under power. In the snow or ice, the same thing applies so if you aren’t still using the engine/transmission to slow down, slip the vehicle into neutral to negotiate curves. With no power to the drive wheels, the vehicle should navigate reasonable bends by coasting.

    If you are a new driver or have little experience driving in snow, find an unused parking lot where, when you lose control, you won’t hit anything. Turn off your ESP (electronic stability program if your vehicle is so equipped) and the traction control. Starting out slowly, test what happens when you brake hard, steer abruptly to another direction, accelerate hard or make any sudden move. Once you see how the vehicle reacts, use the tips above to overcome the results to get you back to your original direction. Try combinations of these actions to find your own solutions. When you find them, practice them so that they become automatic for you. Once you’ve learned them you will continue to use them throughout your whole driving life and they may save your life when you’re faced with a real situation in the future. Many professional drivers refresh themselves every year at the beginning of snow season using this method when they can. Remember to turn on your ESP and TC when you head back to the road. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a “skid school”, be sure to take the course.

    One other thing: With today’s idling laws, pollution controls, fuel saving advisories and mechanics telling you it’s OK to drive away quickly with a cold engine, there is one big safety secret that you might need to save your (or somebody’s) life. We live in Canada! You can scrape off all the snow and ice from the windows that you like but, if you’re breathing inside a cold car that windshield is going to fog up. Wait, with the engine warming until there is heat coming up from the defroster (enough to keep it clear) before you drive off. When you can’t see, YOU are the dangerous driver!

    There’s only one big catch. In Southern Ontario you share the road with thousands of drivers who don’t know or care about the “snow secret”; you are one of the 30,000 new drivers on the road every year operating with little experience; you are part of another group who have never driven in snow before or the most dangerous: the “know-it-alls” who think they are invincible because they have snow tires, drink/drug and drive, are mentally unstable, are distracted or off on a “personal mind trip” of their own when driving! You will have to adjust your driving so that you can overcome all of the mistakes made by all other drivers in your path regardless of weather. Unfortunately, you never know which ones they are so drive as if all of them are a danger to you regardless of the weather.

    Snow Tires vs. All-Season. (You asked.)

    From my personal point of view, it doesn’t matter what type of tire you have on your car. Bald tires will work just as well if you drive to suit the snow conditions. Here is an analogy of a big part of the problem:

    A kid on a skateboard will go down the street and do just fine from a safety standpoint. Take the same kid, dress him up in a helmet, add knee and elbow pads and he becomes this idiot who thinks he can’t get hurt because he’s taken all these precautions. His thought process changes to one of over-confidence and now he’s far more susceptible to serious trouble. Well, adding snow tires works exactly same way. The driver’s mind may get warped!

    Snow tires are wonderful as long as you have snow to drive on. I would recommend all 4 tires be “snows”. “Snows” however, provide no useful purpose as soon as the roads are ploughed and you’re driving on pavement again. Matter of fact, they wear down much quicker and you actually have less control because they’re softer tires. They don’t react as quickly, nor are they as stable (road hugging). All my life, $$ cost was always a big factor and I didn’t insist on having snows on all 4 wheels until somebody else was paying for them. The reason my employer paid that excessive cost for me was so that I could effectively respond to collisions during snowstorms. I never, ever failed to get there. With my final vehicle before I left, the “all-wheel drive” that he paid for didn’t hurt either.

    There is a slight difference in tires though, and that is the temperature at which regular or all-season tires get hard which is around -7 C or +19 F. You know what I’m talking about ….. that thump, thump, thump that you feel starting out on a cold morning. Hard tires are not as effective in snow because there is less “give” to the tread. Again, YOU have to adjust your driving for the tires.

    All-season tires have a tread that displaces both water and snow more effectively than regular radials and are much quieter when driving on dry pavement except during the thump, thump when cold. But, “all-seasons” don’t have that soft tread to grip as well in actual snow. From my perspective, each driver must consider a number of things when making the decision about tire choice. Different vehicles have different dynamics, different tires also have different dynamics and different drivers have their own limitations. You and your personal driving habits make the difference …… adjust them to your situation and you will have a fighting chance to come out unscathed regardless of what you spend. There are NO GUARANTEES!

    The majority of the Ontario’s population lives in the South.
    • Where, in Southern Ontario are the roads snow covered for more than a day unless it continues to snow?
    • If you get snow like Buffalo can, it doesn’t matter what kind of tire you have, you aren’t going anywhere anyway!
    • Even “studded” tires (the best there ever was), that were outlawed by Ontario many years ago are useless there. (Idiots spinning their studded tires kept chewing up the asphalt. That’s why!)

    By the way, if you know you’ve screwed up and are about to have a crash, loosen up your body. If you survive, you’ll have fewer broken bones if you are not tense when the bang comes. Prepare for winter driving, hope for good weather and GOOD LUCK OUT THERE!

    – I absolutely love driving on an unbroken, snow covered, hilly, twisted, country road in winter with bald tires, rear-wheel drive, a standard transmission and no time limits! It’s a challenge that I consider “fun”. – Nick Nicholson, Dec 2014 (Retired with lots of time to write this stuff.)

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