By Terry Rogers
In Delaware, the worst of the winter weather often occurs during January and February, with the potential for snow and ice covering the roads higher during those months. Although the area does not often see significant snowfall, icy roads do occur with some frequency. Unfortunately, because drivers in the area often have little experience dealing with significant snowfall or icy roads, they may be unaware of the best methods for handling winter roadways. In addition, according to George Schifferer, Director of Parts and Service at I.G. Burton, rain is actually more dangerous than ice.
“People often know to be careful in wintery roads,” Mr. Schifferer explained. “But rain is so common in our area that people don’t make the adjustments they should to keep from having accidents.” One of the biggest mistakes people make in the winter, according to Mr. Schifferer is not having their car serviced regularly as one of the items checked during a routine service is tire tread depth.
Mr. Schifferer said that tire tread below five millimeters is considered inadequate, yet many people wait to replace tires until the tread is three millimeters or less. At that level, the tires are extremely dangerous, especially in winter as they are unable to dig into snow and ice properly.
“Many people will remember when you had to change your tires in the winter to snow tires,” Mr. Schifferer said. “The reason was that snow tires had much deeper thread than other tires. Today’s all-weather tires do the same thing that snow tires used to as long as their tread is adequate. Tread actually pushes the snow away as you drive, but if the tire has none, it can’t do that, resulting in you riding on top of the snow or ice which can lead to sliding.”
In addition to making sure that vehicles have adequate tread on the tires, it is important to remember to accelerate and decelerate slowly. While driving, drivers should reduce speed to allow for increased stopping times on icy roads. Most experts recommend a following distance of three to four seconds on dry roads, but this distance should be increased to eight to ten seconds when roads are wet, icy or snow covered.
When driving on snowy or icy roads, slow down well in advance of traffic lights if possible so that you may avoid having to come to a complete stop. When roads are dangerous, it takes longer to start moving again, so slowing down long before the light may allow you to keep rolling and not come to a complete stop.
When approaching hills, do not apply extra gas on the hill. Instead, begin accelerating on the flat part of the roadway before you start into the hill. As you reach the crest, lightly tap the brake to slow the car as you travel downhill to avoid sliding.
“Another key thing to remember when winter weather is predicted is to fill your car up with gas before the weather turns bad,” Mr. Schifferer explained. “If you do have to go out in the storm, a full tank of gas is critical for safety should you get stuck. In addition, winter weather can affect electricity and with today’s electronic pumps, you may be unable to get gas immediately.” It is also advised that you place flashlights, blankets and snacks in the vehicle if you are traveling in a snowstorm as protection should you become stuck and be unable to get assistance immediately. Be sure your cell phone is fully charged as well to call for help should you need it.
The best method for dealing with winter weather, however, is to stay home if you do not have to venture out on the roads. However, for those who must drive on icy or snowy roads, these tips can help keep you safe on the roads.