Think you know how to drive in the snow? Do's and don'ts of winter driving

Credit: Eric Turner/ KTVB

Think you know how to drive in the snow? Do's and don'ts of winter driving

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by Rick Lantz

KTVB.COM

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 11:07 PM

Updated Sunday, Nov 24 at 4:59 AM

BOISE -- The winter of 2013 is undoubtedly testing the driving abilities of Idahoans.  All the recent snow and ice is enough to make folks think twice before sending out a young driver -- or even getting on the road themselves.

We asked: What's the safest way to drive in ice and snow? 

Idaho's Chief Meteorologist Rick Lantz took the challenge.

Rick met with Robert Fenn of the Idaho Driving School in the parking lot of the Western Idaho Fairgrounds.

He's got a a few tips to share with drivers of all ages.

The purpose?

To drive different types of cars on snow and demonstrate safe driving under adverse conditions.  Lantz and Fenn took a spin to see how they handle.

The test drive

Chevy Camaro

"We are in a 2011 Chevy Camaro, and we are going to demonstrate today skidding in a rear wheel drive," Fenn said. "So I want to get up to 20 miles an hour, and I am going to slam on the brake, and we are going to skid. "What you want to do when you are in a skid situation is you want to take your foot off the gas and brake just a little bit and then turn the wheel in the direction of the skid."

The emphasis here is on slowing down with a rear-wheel car.  Rear-wheel cars, like the Camaro, push you forward and can easily spin out of control if too much gas is applied.

Other types of cars with front-wheel drive pull you through the snow, which can be an advantage in slippery conditions. If given a little gas, the front-wheels can pull you out of a skid, but too much gas, and you can still end up out of control.

It's important to know what type of car you're driving, which brings up the next subject. What about vehicles with four-wheel drive like the 2006 Hummer H3.

Hummer H3

"This car has winter tires on it, so it's designed to drive in snow like this, so it has a lot of control" Fenn said. "If I stop, there is very little slide until the very end. And it's better if we compare it to the Camaro. This one also controls better around corners, very little slide."

However, Fenn recommends drivers avoid over-confidence with a four-wheel drive for this reason.

"A lot of people think because they have a four-wheel drive, they're invincible," Fenn said. "But they got to be cautious and slow down before they go around corners, or they might just go straight."

Slipping and sliding

While it's never recommended on your own, the school's winter driving crew did force the cars into slides -- and even then, slowing down helped them gain control again. The point is to know your vehicle and its advantages and disadvantages on slippery roads.  Larger vehicles always take longer to stop.

When in doubt, slow down

Here's another tip from Fenn, "They really just need to slow down, slow down around corners, slow down on the free way. Where ever they are, they just need to slow down."

The number one driving error on winter roads is driving too fast. You need to drive slow and careful. You never know if ice is below the snow causing more of a hazard. In addition, be defensive. You can't always expect the other drivers to have control of their vehicles.

To watch Rick's full report, click the play icon above. To see it on the app, go to the video tab.

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