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Friday, January 23, 2009

Tips for Safe Winter Driving - Build Confidence, Know Your Car

Winter is now in full swing and, at least where I live, the ice torments the roads with its icy chaos. Drivers begin to slow down as they become less and less confident with their driving in these hazardous conditions and lack of confidence is not something that you should allow yourself to have; not ever.

Confidence is the knowledge that you are fully able to do that which you attempt. The way I see it, lack of confidence can be overcome by knowing yourself. Know your limits and abilities and you will never see your confidence wane. If indeed you do notice yourself with a lack of confidence (driving a car in the snow or otherwise) learn from this and tell yourself, "I need to take this opportunity to learn my limits and abilities to increase my confidence during this task." This article is particularly about driving in the winter weather but can be applied across all disciplines.

When I was learning to drive a car, growing up in Maine, my father would take me to an empty parking lot during a big snow storm and allow me to drive around and get a feel for the car. Understand that when driving in the winter, you WILL hit ice, and your tires WILL spin. Trying to avoid slipping the car or spinning the tires is pointless. You will slip and slide so in order to be confident while doing so, you must know how to do it.

Allow yourself to discover how your car reacts in different situations. Learn how fast you can accelerate. Observe how much traction you get while braking. Spin the car out of control in an open parking lot, or any other controlled environment and then attempt to regain control. Use trial and error to figure out which way and how much to turn the wheel in order to regain control during any given amount of drift you may be experiencing.

Other important bits of information are the physical extents of the body of your car. Know exactly how big your car is and test your limits until you are able to easily judge where your bumpers are from the driver's seat. This will help to avoid ambiguities like "I'm not sure if I'm going to brake in time to avoid that other car so I will tense up and close my eyes and hope for the best."

If you'd like, feel free to share your winter driving story.

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