Opinion

COLUMN: Winter driving advice

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Okay, repeat after me… Winter. Snow. Prepare.

Which one of these words does not belong?

In the Lower Mainland, you could almost suggest all three.

Judging by the mayhem that results every time a bit of frozen water falls from the sky in this corner of the world, there are a whole lot of people who are in deep denial about winter, and snow, and preparation for both.

They must like being in denial, year after year, because there can’t be that many newbies here who haven’t a clue how to deal with a spot of real winter.

To whit: A cold snap hits, and there’s a major run on space heaters, salt, winter boots, windshield washer anti-freeze, scrapers and anything else that similarly might be good to have when the thermometer goes below zero.

Ditto with snow. Ask any tire shop owner when it gets crazy-busy. Of course, when the snow is coming down thick and heavy.

After all, why buy snow tires until you really need them... like to get to the tire store? Wild thought, I know.

Mind you, some credit has to be given to those folks. They actually get proper tires, albeit last minute – as opposed to the legions of motorists who slip and spin and bumper-car their way through every snowfall, placing faith in the gas pedal, and all the while crabbing about how the city can’t plow the roads fast enough.

For those individuals, I offer the following winter driving guide, which will be blissfully disregarded.

1. The city does not have a snowplow waiting on the corner of every street, ready to attack the first flake that falls. You are on your own. For awhile, anyway. That’s why equipping your car with snow tires, and a shovel, and maybe a tow rope would be a dandy plan. You might even throw in a heavy coat, a hat, boots and gloves, so that when you have to dig out your hopelessly buried, bald-tired ride, or perhaps just walk away from it entirely in the middle of some hill, you won’t freeze your keister off.

2. If you approach a stop sign or intersection at the same speed in snowy conditions as you do on a dry, summer day, expect to carry on right through said stop sign and/or intersection until your car meets an immovable object, such as another car, or ditch, pole, etc., or your vehicle eventually dissipates its kinetic energy. While you are involved in this unanticipated travel plan, you can jam the brake pedal down as hard as you can, and administer a death-grip to the steering wheel, and neither will change the forces of nature at work on your car.

3. SUV owners: See above. Because you have a fancy $50,000 all-wheel-drive does not mean your vehicle is suddenly free of the fundamental physics of velocity and friction. Of the former, you have too much. Of the latter, not enough. With all tires locked and sliding, you now have a fancy no-wheel-drive. Good luck, and clear sailing.

4. Another physics lesson. A tire rotating at 1,000 rpm has no more grip than a tire rotating at 100 rpm. In fact, it has less. Far less if the tire in question has summer tread, or virtually no tread at all. Look out your side window as your motor screams and tires howl. Note that you are barely moving, or not at all. This illustrates my point.

5. If your instinct tells you to ignore all the above, please do the following. Dress warmly. Shovel a path from the front door to the driveway. Face away from your vehicle, toward the largest expanse of fresh, deep snow available. Now throw your car keys away, as far as you can. You will find them when the snow melts. You can then resume driving.

Thank you.

Andrew Holota is the editor of The Abbotsford News, a sister paper to The Leader.

aholota@blackpress.ca

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