I was given the amazing opportunity to attend the Bridgestone Winter Driving School
in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, last week. And being from California, I
was very aware that my winter driving skills would be, well, not
skilled. The kind folks at Bridgestone humored my attempts to control a
Toyota Camry driving on ice at faster-than-what-is-safe speeds. (That's
me in the picture above... I am wearing that super cute scarf.)
I drove on the new Bridgestone Blizzak WS60 snow tire. And if I needed a winter tire where I live – and I don’t – I would buy this one. We did side-by-side comparisons with the Michelin X-Ice (also a great option for a winter tire, but from my own experience in the same conditions, the Blizzak simply outperforms) and all-season tires. “All-Season” does not mean all seasons I learned. On the first track I drove the Blizzaks first, so I felt like a rockstar! The track is about a foot thick of just ice and snow packed hard. So when I drove the all-season stock tires, I went into a few scary sliiiiiides.
Of course, I was at the Bridgestone Winter Driving School so they taught me how to correct those slides. More on how exactly to do that in another post (check next week!).
Bridgestone Winter Driving School Director and Pro Race Driver Mark Cox lives and drives through the winter months in Steamboat Springs. Cox has helped Bridgestone put together the best strategic winter driving tips to take your vehicle on its snow-laden drive in the real world to help you and your family reach your destinations more safely.
Before you drive:
• Check windshield wiper blades to make sure they work properly. In some areas, snow blades are an effective alternative to conventional wiper blades.
• Have your mechanic test the anti-freeze/coolant to provide the correct level of protection required in your driving area.
• Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Letting air out to drive in snow can reduce the gripping action of tires because the tread will not meet the road surface as it was designed to do. Over-inflation has the same effect.
• Use dedicated snow and ice tires if you live in areas where snow and ice are certainties of winter driving. Snow and ice tires have a softer tread compound and a unique tread design to provide enhanced traction and road-gripping capabilities.
• Install snow tires all the way around the vehicle, not just on the drive axle.
• Keep your gas tank at least half-full. The extra volume can help reduce moisture problems within your fuel system. It also adds a margin of safety should you become stopped or stranded during your trip.
• Try to remove ice and snow from your shoes before getting in your vehicle. As they melt, they create moisture build-up, causing windows to fog on the inside.
• Scrape the ice and snow from every window and the exterior rear view mirrors, not just a small patch on the windshield. Don’t forget headlights and brake lights.
• You and your passengers should always use safety belts, both lap and shoulder straps. Pull them snug to ensure they work properly.
• Adjust headrests so that the back of the head rests squarely in the center of the headrest.
• Rear-end collisions are common in winter driving and a properly adjusted headrest can prevent, or reduce, neck injuries.
• Turn off your radio. Although your radio can provide helpful traffic information, it can also be a distraction for some drivers. Remember, driving is AS MUCH a mental skill as a physical skill.
• Don’t use a cellular phone. Even if you have a hands-free model, you need to concentrate on driving, not on a telephone conversation, when driving on ice or snow.
• Keep your vehicle stocked with simple emergency equipment in case you do get stalled or have an accident.
Consider keeping these items in your vehicle (per the above tip):
1. A blanket or extra clothes
2. A candle with matches
4. Beverages (never alcohol)
6. C.B. radio, cellular phone or hand radio
7. Long jumper cables
8. A small shovel
9. A flashlight
10. A windshield scraping device
11. A tow rope
12. A bag of sand or cat litter for traction
winter months, keep abreast of weather reports in your area. If snow or
ice is predicted, make plans to leave early or arrive later. An alarm
clock set to an earlier time can be a good friend in helping you avoid
• If you can move a night trip to daylight hours, do so. Not only is visibility better, but if your vehicle is stalled, you are more likely to receive prompt assistance during the daytime.
• Before you shift into gear, plan the best route to your destination. Avoid hills, high congestion areas and bridges if possible.
If you follow these tips, you will certainly have a better chance of driving safely in your vehicle in winter conditions. And seriously, in my opinion, EVERYONE should sign up for a class like this. Even if it doesn't snow (like in California) you can apply safe driving techniques to wet or slick roads in any weather. Lucky for you, Bridgestone offers these classes! Go to www.winterdrive.com for more details!
by Breanne Boyle