Darkness and topsy-turvy weather make winter driving a challenge. Thankfully, our experts share easy ways to steer clear of snow hazards.
There’s a reason accidents occur more often after sunset: Our pupils’ ability to shift between light and dark, known as “dark adaptation,” diminishes after age 30, reveals ophthalmologist J. Michael Roach, MD. “It’s harder for our eyes to adjust after being blinded by headlights of oncoming cars.”
The easy solution: Momentarily shift your eyes down and to the right, using the white line on the side of the road as a guide. If you’re still having trouble, blink your left eye to block light from oncoming cars.
Another smart winter driving tip: Before starting the ignition, sit in your car and close your eyes, advises Dr. Roach. Being surrounded by darkness for even just a few moments speeds your adjustment to night vision.
Stick to the center.
When driving in cold, rainy conditions, stick to the middle lane — it’s the highest point on the road, so water will pool on the side lanes, where it might freeze. And watch out for black ice, which is more likely to form on bridges and overpasses, thanks to cold air flowing above and below them.
Shaded areas, such as under trees or in a building’s shadow, are also likely to freeze first, according Lauren Fix, author of Lauren Fix’s Guide to Loving Your Car (Buy on Amazon, $20.99). “Just assume these spots will have ice, and approach them cautiously by slowing down beforehand, then coasting — gently ease your foot off the gas and keep your steering wheel straight and steady until you’re on safer ground.”
Make one move.
Skidding is often caused by turning the wheel too quickly. The simple fix: “Do one thing at a time: either brake or steer,” advises William Van Tassel, manager of AAA Driver Training Programs. “In other words, brake before a curve, so that once you’re turning, you’re already going slowly and all you have to do is steer,” he says. “When your car is doing one thing at a time — rather than turning and braking simultaneously — your chances of skidding are drastically reduced.”
Stuck in the snow? Turn off your car and place your floor mat under the tire to provide traction, suggests auto expert Michael Martone. Once your car is free, just go back and grab your mat!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.
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