As usual, the holidays provided a multifaceted education – I came to the conclusion that no one over the age of 25 should take vodka shooters, for example, and that trying to park at a major mall on Boxing Day is a bad plan. And there were plenty of winter driving revelations: in the course of a two-hour trip, I saw four cars go off the road.
This inspired me to come up with an idiot's guide to winter driving – think of it as collective wisdom, but in reverse. Here are some sure-fire ways to put your car in the ditch when the snow falls:
Stick with your regular tires: Virtually every car on the market comes with all-season tires – and winter is a season, isn't it? Sure, all the experts say that winter tires are designed with special rubber compounds that stay soft at low temperatures. And yes, they have specially-moulded grooves that improve traction so you can brake, steer and accelerate better. Never mind all that. If you want to hit the ditch, stick with the all-seasons. Or your summer tires. And while you're at it, you should probably increase your life insurance coverage. Your beneficiaries will thank you.
Don't bother cleaning snow off your roof: Smart drivers sweep the snow off every surface of their car. The lights need to be clear, and snow on the roof can slide down over the windshield when you stop, acting as a giant vehicular blindfold. If you're looking to crash, just clear a hole big enough to see through and hit the road. See you at the body shop. Or the hospital.
Pass the plow: What could be more frustrating than driving behind a plow or salt truck that's clearing the road ahead of you to improve traction and make your drive safer? Go ahead, pass it. You are a fearless pioneer, and you will blaze your own trail – to the ditch.
Tailgate: Snow and ice can triple your stopping distance. But if you want to crash, get close to the vehicle ahead of you. Congratulations – you have just increased your chances of crashing by several hundred per cent! And this will be a two-for-one: you'll take out your car, and the one you're tailgating. It might even turn into a mass collision.
Play with the toys: Since traction may be limited, safe winter driving demands that you keep your eyes on the road. But who wants to spend hours at a time staring through a windshield? Why not liven things up by searching for new radio stations, or playing with your cellphone? When you look up again, you may be in a skid, headed for a rear-ender, or in the ditch. At least you won't be bored.
Slam on the brakes and jerk the wheel: When the road is slippery, smooth, moderate control inputs are critical. But if you want to hit the ditch, you've got to really throw yourself into the braking and steering – when you jerk the wheel or hammer the brakes, your tires' contact patches will lose traction, and you will be at the mercy of physics. Good thing you have those airbags. You may be using them.
Keep your old car: Newer-model cars have advanced stability control systems and multichannel anti-lock brakes that help you stop shorter and stay in control. Where's the fun in that?
Pass on winter driving school: Experts can teach you a lot about staying safe in low-traction conditions. You could learn about threshold braking, steering technique, and how to get out of a skid. So if you want to hit the ditch, pass on school.
Like us on Facebook
Add us to your circles
Sign up for our weekly newsletter