Winter driving tips from an Alaskan transplant

Jan 29, 2014

Credit Katerha / Flickr

In Fairbanks, Alaska, driver's ed meant going out to a field by the airport and spinning donuts until I learned how to slide and stay in control.  As a result, I feel it's my civic duty to remind drivers how to stay safe on slippery roads. Here are some things to keep in mind as you venture out in this wintry weather:

Slow down. I get it-- we all have places to be. But you're better off alive and a little late than with a crunched car or in a ditch. 

Give yourselves extra time. Extra travel time, extra brake time, extra acceleration time. It takes much longer to slow down on icy roads, and you don't want to be the guy who ends up sliding into the middle of an intersection.

Turn on your headlights! In windy, snowy conditions, visibility can often be terrible. Headlights always help. 

Use the four-second rule. Usually, the rule of thumb is to leave two seconds' worth of space between you and the car in front of you. But today, aim for four or five. 

Learn how to slide. I'm serious. Now is a great time to find an empty parking lot or open field and practice sliding in control. Pull your emergency brake and see how you do. Try variations on using your brakes and steering. You'll figure out what works and what doesn't. If you're used to the feeling of sliding, you'll panic less when it happens on the road. Also, it's kind of fun.

Stay safe! It's a great time if year to keep a spare set of winter clothes in the trunk of your car. If you have a cell phone, make sure it's charged. 

In summary, today is probably a great day to stay home with a cup of tea and a good book. If you need to travel, don't panic. Just take your time. 

May the force be with you.