Saturday, December 01, 2007

Winter driving lessons

Lesson No. 1. All Season Radial Tire is a misnomer. It should be All Season (except when it snows) Radial Tire.

Lesson No. 2. When it snows, leave the Boxster in your garage. It was a sad sight today at the corner of Gorham & Pinckney Streets.

Lesson No. 3. It is time for SUV and Subaru owners to admit that they did not buy their vehicle for its ability to drive on snow covered roads. The one thing I could consistently predict on today's drive from Madison to Pewaukee, the vehicle holding up traffic in the left lane was going to be an SUV or an AWD Subaru. Otherwise, these vehicles were cowering in the right lane
driving 5-10 mph less than prevailing traffic.

I think the caution of these drivers relates to
these vehicles' high center of gravity and lousy tires (All Season Radials, of course). Front wheel drive sedans and 4WD pick-ups (with off-road tires) ruled I-94 today.

Admit it now, that SUV or Subaru was all about image. You bought the hype, but were wrong. Now buy a front wheel drive sedan or wagon, and get rid of those ridiculous fuel-wasting vehicles. You will feel safer driving on snow covered roads and have more money for other things after fueling.

Lesson No. 4. Riding a bicycle in the snow - ARE YOU NUTS? I know you're in Madison, and your bike emits no greenhouse gases, and your neighbors think this makes you especially environmentally conscious; but bloody hell - I nearly killed you with my car today. Take the city bus the next time it snows or threatens to snow.

Lesson No. 5
. A set of Michelin X-Ice tires is money well spent. These snow tires turned my front wheel drive sedan from white-knuckles in snow; to sure handling and able to start & stop on any hill I encountered. I was fearless on the freeway today, but I kept it in control and did not risk a ride into the median ditch.


Dad29 said...


Over the summer I got rid of a pair of hard-rubber-compound front tires b/c they were absolutely dangerous on turns and braking. Went to soft-rubber compound specifically to get better traction (I'll give up about 10-15K miles) and they worked out just fine.

The biggest danger on Bluemound Road (aside from reporters w/camera trucks screeching and preaching) are drivers who think that 25 mph on plowed/salted road is WAY too fast. The next biggest danger are the wonzo-twits who think their 4WD arrangement will accelerate them across the roadway on ice (it won't...)

It's too late to "learn how to drive in snow" if you're 45++ years old and lived here all your life. Buy a horse if you haven't figured it out by this time.

steveegg said...

Allow me to add Lesson No. 6 - 4WD, ABS brakes and stability control do not let you exceed your tires' limit of traction, which, unless you have very good snow/ice/off-road tires (see Lesson No. 5), is about half of what it is in dry or warm-and-wet conditions. That means 25 mph on a snow-covered freeway's too slow, and 50's too fast (35-45 depending on what the rest of the traffic is doing is the sweet spot).

It's a combination of confidence in driving, knowledge of what is still possible and freshly impossible, and good tires (I can't stress that last one enough) that allows one to drive well in winter weather. You probably would have been able to keep up with my Subaru yesterday (the price was right, and I need the space a sedan cannot give me; I'm willing to take the mid-20s city/30 highway), but very few others were.

I've run the gamut of vehicles in Wisconsin winter, from a 1977 Buick Skyhawk with virtual racing slicks in the back to a 1-ton cargo van to a too-light-for-snow 1995 Saturn SC2 to what I've got now, so it doesn't really matter to me which wheels are driven. The AWD does let me swing the back end out under power like a good rally driver.

Headless Blogger said...

Steve - That 45 mph limit is what I set for myself last night, although I dropped it in certain areas. There were a few vehicles going slightly faster, but not many and not by much.

I was really surprised by the timidness of SUV drivers all day yesterday. In the past, they'd be the ones going too fast for conditions. I don't believe that they are any smarter, I think it was something about the conditions that made 45 mph seem too fast for them, but not for me.