Disclosure: This experience was provided by Toyota USA and included lodging, dining, and transportation for the driving school. All opinions are those of the author.
In the Front Range we have had a pretty mild winter as of late but March is historically our snowiest month of the year. Are you ready for round two when the white stuff begins to fall again?
We were invited to the Bridgestone Winter Driving School last Month in Steamboat Springs to learn a few tips to pass on to you. The school itself is conducted on a closed snow and ice track but on the way out we encountered random conditions on the highway that have a tendency to unnerve drivers.
I went to @bridgestonetires Winter Driving School today. Everything I did today applies to the real world. Here are 15 seconds on the highway on my way out here. Janky impromptu dash cam mount for footage in the @toyotausa 4Runner #letsgoplaces showing ice, variable conditions, curves, braking, etc. #ad
Do you stay calm and know you are in control in these situations? With a little more preparation and a few tips for the wheel you can enter these situations with greater confidence. Begin with preparing your car for winter driving conditions. Besides getting specific snow tires there are many things you can do to help keep you in control.
As for snow tires we are Bridgestone Blizzak consumers and even keep them on our compact car to take to the mountains. This tire is a consumer standard for snow and ice conditions. In the best conditions you are only on a postcard size of tire at any given time when driving. When conditions vary and you drive on snow and ice the area of contact the tire makes to the driving surface decreases greatly. Maximizing tire contact on this surface gives winter drivers an advantage for keeping control of a vehicle.
The Bridgestone Winter Driving School is a training ground for everyday commuters, teens, seniors, and professionals that drive for work. When I was there another track was being used by local police crew to brush up on their skills since they regularly respond to incidents in adverse conditions. This school has classes for all levels of drivers and upon completion you may be eligible for a discount with your insurer for electively taking a driving skills training.
The first thing to do for safer winter driving is be alert for changing conditions or oncoming hazards. Avoiding an incident is the safest thing you can do.
Second, know how to work with your brakes. Do you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS)? ABS is standard on all vehicles sold in the US beginning in 2012 but was phased in beforehand so is on vehicles over a decade old. Know if your car has an operating ABS system because it will affect how you quickly stop on low-traction surfaces. We know longer rhythmically pump brakes but decrease the time the foot is on the brake as we approach a stop by feeling the weight of the car shift forward. This is for a rapid stop.
Third, work toward avoiding excessive braking when a complete stop is not needed. Know the driving conditions you are dealing with. Snow and ice tend to be hardest for traction when they are lubricated. This can be when the sun is starting to come out and melts some snow and ice or if there has been a lot of traffic over an area that causes some melting. If the surface conditions are changing then slow down a bit to work with your vehicle.
On turns apply brakes to attain a safe speed while going straight, then take your foot off the brake going into the turn to maintain maximum wheel traction for steering, then accelerate out of the turn once the steering column is straight. There is a finite amount of power for braking, steering, and acceleration with give and take for all three actions. You want to maximize each action in situations when they are needed. Begin to learn to take your foot off the brake when appropriate to have better steering control of your vehicle.
In an oversteer the rear tires skid and the vehicle begins to turn. Do not panic. Point the wheels in the direction of the skid and accelerate to allow the vehicle to experience a weight transfer to the rear thus allowing those rear tires to make contact with the road and giving you back vehicle control.
In an understeer avoid the tendency to brake but lift your foot off the accelerator to allow weight transfer of the vehicle to move forward with a slight turn of the steering wheel straight and giving you control of the front tires. This move goes against our natural tendencies the most and needs to become a developed habit.
Consider going to the Bridgestone Winter Driving School for a half-day or full-day course if you want to improve your driving or simply need a break from the ski slopes. These skills are best practiced but on safe conditions like a closed track everyone can benefit with a little practice. Thank you ToyotaUSA for sending us and allowing us to help make ColoradoMoms readers a little safer on our roads.