Are you one of those Michigan drivers who forgets how to drive when it snows? Here are some tips

Several inches of snow expected Friday

DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 2: A snow plow clears snow from a road on Belle Isle February 2, 2015 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images) (Joshua Lott, 2015 Getty Images)

Is it just me or does it feel like every time it snows everyone else forgets how to drive?

Whether it’s a light dusting or a few inches I feel like I can sense the complete panic of the drivers around me. But we should be used to this, right?

Is it our tires? Does it matter if your tires are all-season tires or winter tires? If you want to know more about that debate you can view our Trust Index coverage.

Read: Winter storm warning in Metro Detroit: Snow projections by area, storm timeline

In the meantime, Michigan State Police provided the following tips for driving safely in the winter:

Drive slow on ice and snow

Most winter driving crashes happen because drivers are going too fast for the road conditions. Michigan law requires drivers to go at a speed that is “reasonable and proper” for road conditions. If you’re going too fast you could get a ticket, even if you’re going below the speed limit.

  • It can take up to ten times longer to stop your vehicle on snowy and/or icy roads. Slow down and allow more room between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. This gives you more time to react and brake, reducing your crash risk.
  • Put your turn signal on sooner than you would in warm weather months. Remember, it takes longer for the cars behind you to react and stop, too.
  • Avoid distractions now more than ever. Taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds robs you of precious reaction time. Put your phone away and don’t try to multitask (eating, putting on makeup, etc.).
  • Watch for black ice. Black ice, a very thin and nearly invisible layer of ice that makes the road look wet, is another reason to slow down this winter. Stay alert for black ice on bridges, ramps and overpasses, after sudden drops in temperature, and in shaded areas.
  • Don’t be fooled by four-wheel drive. Front-wheel-drive (FWD), all-wheel drive (AWD) and four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles are less likely to slip during acceleration than a rear-wheel-drive (RWD) vehicle. However, FWD, AWD and 4WD vehicles are just as difficult to stop and turn on wintry roads as RWD vehicles. So slow down!
  • Don’t make any sudden moves. Accelerate and brake smoothly and gradually — no stomping on the brake or gas pedal.
  • Steer into a skid. If your vehicle begins to skid, first take your foot off the accelerator. Then steer in the same direction the rear of your car is sliding. In other words, if the rear end of your car is swinging to the right, turn your steering wheel to the right. Don’t steer violently, or you’ll just skid in the opposite direction.
  • Work on your ABS. With an antilock braking system (ABS), when your car skids and you step on the brakes, you may feel a pulsing sensation. This is normal—do not let up on the brakes! ABS will prevent your wheels from locking during a skid, giving you greater steering control. It will not help you stop more quickly, however. So, keep driving slow on ice and snow.
  • Don’t cruise. Using cruise control on ice and snow can be dangerous. If your car skids, the cruise control will accelerate to maintain a constant speed —spinning your wheels even faster and increasing the chance you will lose control of your vehicle.
  • Keep the lights low. If you’re driving in snow, rain or fog, reduce reflective glare by putting your headlights on low beam.

Read: Winter travel tips: How to get vehicle unstuck from snow, list of emergency supplies to take with you

Drive safely near snowplows

Most snowplow/passenger vehicle crashes occur when passenger vehicles hit snowplows from behind or while attempting to pass, according to Michigan State Police.

They offered the following tips:

  • Slow down and stay back. Stay at least six to 10 car lengths between your vehicle and the snowplow. If you’re driving in the other lane you should slow down by taking your foot off the accelerator, turning on your windshield wipers and increasing your distance from the centerline (if you can).
  • Do not pass a snowplow. While it may be tedious to be stuck behind a slow-moving snowplow, you’re better off to hang back and not attempt to pass.
    • Snowplows are heavy! They can weigh as much as 30 tons. A passenger vehicle weighs in at around 2 tons.
    • Snowplows can be unpredictable. They make wide turns and sometimes overlap lanes.
    • Plow blades are sharp. In a collision, the blade of the plow can tear apart a smaller vehicle.
    • Wing plows can be invisible. The wing plow—a 10-foot plow on the side of the truck which extends 2 to 10 feet beyond the truck’s width—can weigh nearly as much as a compact car. While in use, it can kick up enough snow to obscure it completely from view.
    • It’s the law (on one side, anyway). It is illegal in Michigan to pass a snowplow on the right. And while it’s not illegal to pass on the left, you should do so with extreme caution.
  • Move over for stopped snowplows. If you see a stationary snowplow on the side of the road, you must slow down to at least 10 mph slower than the speed limit and move over to an open lane.
  • Find out where snowplows have been by using this map.

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.