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How to drive in snow and ice

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Winter’s perils run the gamut from chapped lips to seasonal depression, but perhaps chief among them is driving in bad weather. In a region not known for a gifted driving population, it would behoove readers to take in these tips from two local driving experts.

  1. Respect the weather

    Zahid Malik, driving instructor and owner of Falls Church Driving School, says the biggest problem he sees is people underestimating the weather. “If it’s freezing rain, we don’t drive,” he says. “Icy conditions, there’s nothing you can do.” AA Driving Academy owner Syed Kazmi agrees that ice is best avoided, but “a soft snow” is probably ok to drive in if it’s under 3 inches.

  2. Don’t be the car with two feet of snow on the roof

    “Always clean the car,” Kazmi advises, and he doesn’t mean a quick swipe of the windows. “The pile of snow on the roof of the car…can fly while you’re driving. It can fly onto another car coming behind you. Always clean the car. Take your time.”

  3. If you hit ice, don’t slam on the brakes

    “If you keep jamming your brake, you will keep skidding,” says Malik. If you don’t have antilock brakes, he advises lightly tapping the breaks. Put the car in a lower gear, adds Kazmi, and “just let it go.”

  4. Ease off the gas through a turn

    “If you are turning and you continue pressing the gas, you can turn wide and go into a pole,” says Malik. Break through the turn or keep your foot off either pedal.

  5. Turn the wheel in the direction you’re sliding

    “If your car is slipping to the right, turn a little to the right,” says Malik. “You will nicely come back to the main side.”

  6. Keep more space than normal between other cars

    Both instructors say drivers don’t keep proper distance between other cars even in regular conditions. “We recommend doubling the amount of following distance,” says Malik.

  7. Wait, wait, wait at stop signs and traffic lights

    Don’t move as soon as the car in front of you at a stoplight moves. “You wait until the light turns green,” Malik says. “Count one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, then you proceed with caution.” You never know if another driver is going to hit ice and go sailing through the stop sign.

  8. Don’t try to make the weather a teachable moment

    Kazmi says adults often solicit his help for their kids during inclement weather. “Some parents would like us to have them drive on the roads so they have some kind of experience,” he says. “If it’s more than 2 or 3 inches, it’s too dangerous.” Donuts in an icy parking lot are also a no-go.

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  1. Laine Laine

    Elaine Clisham

    Jan 26, 2011 - 12:45:53 PM

    Regarding no. 2: That pile of snow can also slide forward when you hit the brakes. As in, down over your windshield. Amazing how many drivers don't understand that.

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  2. Guliel Guliel

    Billy Madison

    Jan 26, 2011 - 01:36:44 PM

    #9 Don't drive on slippery roads, unless your life depends on it, because you're putting your life and everyone else on the road at risk.

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  3. Anthony Borwick Anthony Borwick

    Anthony Borwick

    Jan 26, 2011 - 12:57:50 PM

    Put snow tires on your car at the beginning of winter.  They really help.  Cautious driving as stated above is always a requirement, even with snow tires. 

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