#194 Traction=Friction

Survival Tip #194

Driving in Snow

Last night we here in Central PA got slammed by a snow storm. I happened to be driving home through it at 3 a.m. Probably wasn’t the best decision as nothing had been plowed yet and there was probably 4 inches on the road by the time I got home. However, I’ve faced worse and farther drives so I decided to take on the challenge for good old research.

I was taught how to drive in the snow before I was allowed to drive alone in a car. This involved vacant parking lots and turning a car into a sled on a number of occasions.

Here is the science. Your car’s traction = the amount of friction generated between your tires and the surface they are contacting. Snow gives very little friction which is why it is easy to get stuck and spin your tires, and also why applying the breaks often send you skidding.

How do you stop yourself from getting stuck or sliding out of control?

Drive slowly. Use your lower gears and stay at a manageable pace. Even if you have an automatic you should have lower gears. They are those random numbers below D that you’ve probably never used. Also, by keeping your speed down when you do lose control the distance you can travel against your will and possible damage to you and your car will be reduced drastically.

Avoid braking whenever possible. Glide as much as possible. If you must break lightly apply the brakes just for a fraction of a second at a time. This way you can control your trajectory when you skid before you apply the next bit of brakes.

When you lose control look where you want to go, not what you are trying to avoid. If you are sliding toward a tree and during your struggle to regain control you only stare at the tree, you will likely hit the tree. Find your safe path and focus on that.

And the best way to drive safely in the snow is: Don’t. If you don’t have to drive in bad conditions, don’t. Stay home.

Sadly in the Primal Age there won’t be snow plows or salt trucks to save the day. So, make sure you do have some practice driving in crappy conditions, but only do so at no risk to yourself or others.


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