CADILLAC — It may only be early November but Old Man Winter didn’t get the memo.
On Wednesday first responders and law enforcement were very busy as snow and cold brought about the return of winter driving conditions in Northern Michigan. Cadillac Michigan State Police trooper Michael Birt said the most important tip he can give to drivers get reaccustomed to driving in the snow is having space between your vehicle and others out on the road.
“Break a little earlier than normal. If you are approaching a light about to turn or a stop sign you are familiar with you will want to stop sooner than you would in normal summer or fall conditions,‘ he said.
Birt said when traveling in snowy conditions it is best to give yourself extra travel time. For example, Birt said if your morning or evening commute usually takes 20 minutes you might want to plan for 30-40 minutes.
Drivers with four-wheel drive might think they are better equipped to take on the snowy conditions but Birt said that’s not 100% true.
“Four-wheel drive doesn’t mean four-wheel stop. It is helpful when it is allowing you to stay in a straight line but it is slowing down and stopping that is the problem,‘ he said. “In slushy or icy conditions it is not going to help you stop.‘
AAA also has some insight into winter driving.
Winter storms, bad weather, and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Drivers should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies. AAA urges drivers to be cautious while driving in adverse weather.
AAA also recommends the following tips while driving in snow and icy conditions:
• Stay home. Only go out if necessary. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out.
• Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.
• Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
• Increase your following distance to 5-6 seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
• Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
• Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
• Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads will just make your wheels spin. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
• Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.