Driving in snowy ice winter weather

Winter is coming! The Carolinas are expected to get hit by a winter storm this weekend, so the morning news show, Good Day Charlotte, asked me to do a segment on how to prepare your vehicle and stay safe when nasty weather hits.

Folks up North love to make fun of Southerns when winter weather hits. I grew up in Ohio and Wisconsin where winter storms freqently dropped 8″ to 10″ of snow overnight, and we were still being expected to be at work on time in the morning. Yet a mere 1″-2″ of snow brings cities like Charlotte and Atlanta to a screeching halt. We rush to the stores, buy up all of the bread and milk, and hunker down for Snowmagaden.

It’s not that Southerners are weather wimps. (Yeah, ok, sometimes we are.) We simply don’t have the same equipment and infrastructure as our northern neighbors to deal with snow and ice. Ice being the key word. I will take 8″ of snow over 1″ of ice on the roads any day! Snow can be shoveled and plowed to clear streets for driving. Proper tires can give you traction on snow. With ice… not so much. Sure, the city can salt the roads to lower the freezing point to help prevent ice from forming (or to melt it faster when it does), but we don’t have a lot of that type of equipment down here. The city has to focus its limited resources on the airports, school bus routes and major thoroughfares, leaving side streets and neighborhoods at the mercy of Mother Nature.

winter snow tireWe also don’t have the right tires on our vehicles to contend with snow. Up North, most people switch over to “winter tires” in October or November. Winter tires have special tread compounds that are designed to provide better traction in colder temperatures and on snowy, icy surfaces. Most vehicles in the South are equipped with summer tires or, at best, all-season tires, which still have very limited performance in winter weather. They just can’t bite into the snow and ice to provide traction, especially if they are more than 50% worn. And don’t think that your AWD or 4WD vehicle will keep you safe. All-wheel drive systems can help you get going on slippery roads, but they don’t help on ice, and they don’t help you stop!

So, what should you do to prepare for winter weather? Make sure your vehicle is in good shape. Have an ASE certified mechanic check that your fluids are fresh and topped off, your wipers are new, your battery holds a charge, and your tires are in good condition.

Keep an “emergency kit’ in the back of your car in case you get stranded and have to wait an hour or so for a tow truck. A good, basic emergency kit includes a blanket, extra gloves and hats, an ice scraper, water and snacks, a flashlight, extra wiper fluid, and a basic first aid kit.

Take extra care when driving on snowy, icy roads. SLOW DOWN!!!! Just because you grew up in the North and “know how to drive in snow” doesn’t mean you can drive at normal speeds. The roads are more ice than snow here, and you don’t have the right tires. It doesn’t take much for your vehicle to slide out of control. Remember that it will take you 4-5 times longer to STOP your vehicle, so leave yourself more time when slowing down.

Whether you live up North, in the mountains or down South, stay safe this holiday season!