Winter isn’t over yet, driving could still get rough


via hippo px

Alejandra Lemus, Staff Writer

It is the cause of fears that many are familiar with but that still catches even the most experienced drivers off guard: a new winter season that brings with it ice and snow, and as a result, dangerous driving conditions. As the first heavy snowfall comes around, we immediately hear an influx of stories involving skids, spin outs, and accidents, both witnessed and personally experienced. 

“You see on the news accidents every day and it’s really scary,” says Julia Rhodes ‘20.

It can feel overwhelming with so many new threats surrounding an otherwise normal routine, and some develop stubborn anxiety and fears.

While nobody is exempt from the possibility of a driving mishap in the snowiest winter months, heeding caution, even before you get behind the wheel, will increase your own safety as well as the safety of those with which you are sharing the roads.

One of the biggest worries of many drivers are other people on the road.

“When the first snow hits every year, people forget how to drive,” says Jason Perez ‘21. “When people, especially high school drivers, are overly confident in their driving, they can be careless.”

Even if you are taking all the cautions you see as necessary, there is no guarantee that your fellow commuters have the same mindset. The best way to make sure there are as few careless drivers as possible is to make sure you personally are being mindful.

“Always pay attention because you never know what’s going to happen,” says Rhodes.

It is important to be aware of how other drivers are behaving on the road, and sometimes it is best to just get out of the way of someone who is driving erratically. Additionally, not allowing a pushy tailgater or a risky speeder to influence the caution you are taking while driving is key. 

Being aware of your surroundings and knowing how to handle any issues that occur allow you to take some control of a potentially harmful situation.

Further to being attentive, it is a key point of safe travel to understand the importance of using your brakes and accelerator mindfully.

“You need more braking space, you need more accelerating space, so you need to take things easily when you’re driving in the snow,” says math teacher Ben Bakalyar.

Many drivers, even those with more experience, tend to overestimate their own abilities as well as underestimate how significantly ice and snow can affect the functions of your car and it’s responses to your commands.

Sometimes, this means it is best to let yourself experience right off the bat exactly how the roads can take control from you, safely, of course.

“If you aren’t sure how the roads are and there isn’t anyone around you, tap on the brake to test how effective they are,” says Perez.

A test like this allows you to better prepare for similar situations that may happen on your drive before you are actually faced with more dangerous stakes. It also checks you mentally so you don’t become too confident to an unsafe degree.

Awareness of how your car works in bad conditions comes especially in handy when you hit points in the road when the quality of your car becomes more vulnerable, such as curves.

“Curves are bad, because physics,” says Bakalyar. “You want to do your braking before a curve, you want to do your accelerating after a curve.”

The Michigan Department of Transportation advises similar awareness.

The department warns winter drivers to be especially alert when crossing over bridges or under tunnels. This is due to the fact that more air can circulate in the spaces surrounding these ares, causing faster freezing.

Further, it is cautioned to avoid using cruise control, maneuver slowly and carefully on lane changes to reduce the chance of control loss, and to only pump your brakes if your car is not already equipped with anti-lock brakes.

The threat of accidents or injury is always at hand when it comes to driving in the winter. Taking necessary precautions whenever possible can help reduce your own risk and create a safer environment for everyone this snowy season.