Before he became the host of Canada's Worst Driver, Andrew Younghusband knew only one sure-fire way out of a sticky winter driving situation in his home town of New Melbourne, Nfld.: "Wait long enough and a Newfoundland Power truck will come by."
He has other, more practical tips, though. Many people think their best defence on hazardous winter roads is to simply slow down and be careful. "Yeah, my mother carefully hit a cop at about one mile an hour," says Andrew Younghusband, host and writer of Canada's Worst Driver on the Discovery Channel. "She had one of those slides on fresh ice that lasted, like, 40 meters. They were looking at each other, shrugging, when she finally hit him. That's winter driving, right?"
Here are his favourite tips - gleaned from six seasons of Camaro-crunching driver rehab - for heading out on slippery streets.
Overcome your instincts
When it comes to proper steering, braking, and cop-car avoidance, the right move isn't intuitive. "You want to learn a whole different instinct," says Mr. Younghusband, who suggests practising in a parking lot. "You learn so much about car handling, fishtailing, getting in and out of situations, the difference between front-wheel drive and rear-wheel drive. It's the people who go and play in parking lots who wind up being better winter drivers by a country mile."
Easy on the brakes
The hardest impulse to resist - when you spot trouble - is hitting your brakes, which can lock your wheels and send your vehicle skidding. "If you're about to hit someone, take your foot off the brake so the wheels start to roll and you'll regain your steering capability," says Mr. Younghusband. "If you have standard brakes, you want to do something the experts call 'threshold braking.' The threshold that you're looking for is between slowing down the wheels and locking them into a skid."
Look where you want to go
Newer vehicles are usually equipped with a computerized anti-lock braking system, which modulates braking to prevent skids, though your stopping distance may be increased. The danger here is that panicking drivers tend to jerk the steering wheel. Erratic steering in ABS vehicles can be deadlier.
"We talk about this on the show ... look where you want to go. If you look at the bumper of the guy you're approaching, that's not where you want to go," says Mr. Younghusband. "Look to the left, see if anybody is coming in that lane. And if there's not, you'll turn and steer there, and your foot will come off the brake just because you see open road in front of you. It's incredible how well it works."
Assume black ice
Black ice is such a persistent danger that drivers should just assume it's there from late fall through to spring, recommends Mr. Younghusband. "Ice would be the thing to have on your mind even when it's not on your mind. When it's hovering around five [degrees] you get in your car and think you'll be fine. Then it drops a few degrees and you're going to be on ice before you know it."
Prepare for the worst
If your vehicle gets stuck in a snowbank, there may be little you can do without a a time machine. "Go back in time and buy a four-wheel drive" is Mr. Younghusband's advice. Call a tow truck. (And always carry an emergency kit.).
And don't do this
Rely on all-season tires. They begin to lose their grip below -10 C.
The season finale of Canada's Worst Driver airs tonight on The Discovery Channel.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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