Winter Wonderland: Driving in the Snow - The Mobility Resource

Do you consider yourself to be an optimum driver in less than optimum road conditions?

In February 2015, Raleigh, NC experienced a Snow-maggeden, where ice and snow created havoc on the roads; there were over 200 collisions before noon. Hundreds of cars were abandoned on the side of the road, and at least one photo of a vehicle on fire went viral, fit with the abominable marshmallow man.

While my wife works at the entrance to our neighborhood, just over a mile away, she experienced her own scare in our accessible vehicle.

She called me to tell me what happened: We live in the middle of a hill, and she strategized about the roads with the lowest grade, which would work best given the weather, and which she needed to avoid.

In order to get through the packed snow, she needed to gain traction since our accessible vehicle is weightier than most vehicles. Yet, when she arrived at the stoplight and pressed on the brake petal, she could feel the tires slip and slide right through the intersection.

Knowing she didn’t have control of the vehicle was a scary feeling. To safely slide, she honked the horn in case anyone was coming through the intersection and steered in the direction she needed to go, until she felt the tires grip the road again.

By mid-morning, she had calmed down and safety officials had salted the intersection in addition to adding hazard signs.

If you need to be on the roads this winter, do you know how to get to your destination, without the heart attack scare of losing control on the roads?

Here are some driving tips we can all use:

1. Be aware of news reports. Watch for any road closures or reports of particularly slick areas to avoid. Social media can give real time news of accident-prone places.

2. If possible, accelerate and decelerate slowly. Not only does it enhance traction, it also opens driver awareness, allowing you to see what’s going on around you more fully.

3. Look for level roads. Do not power up hills, which can cause a spinout and slippage. Don’t stop once getting momentum going up a hill.

4. How well do you know your breaks? Some vehicles have anti-brake locks. The best way to use the brakes is threshold braking, slowing pumping on the brake petal.

5. Hand controls become less reliable. Before taking your vehicle out for a spin in poor weather, get to know your vehicle. If you use hand control devices, how do they work in different road conditions, whether it’s rain, snow, or road construction? 

6. Leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles. While you may not have control over how close people follow you, at least double the amount of space between you and other cars ahead.

7. Have a back-up plan if you get stuck. For people with disabilities who may need additional assistance, carry emergency information and have a back up plan in case you get stranded on the side of the road.

8. Stay at home when possible. While we know this isn’t optimal and I’m all for an outdoor adventure, however, bad weather can mean bad news for people with disabilities. Snow and ice create havoc not only on the roads, but sidewalks, which may impede movement for wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

Growing up in Chicago, I was used to finding my way around in the winter months, but many areas of the country have seen unusual winter-weather patterns that lead us to re-think our plans. Sometimes slipping down the ramp to get out of the house is enough adventure for one day. 

This winter, don’t be caught off guard by poor weather conditions. Take the time you need to get to your destination!

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