Winter is fun. So is driving in it. Really.

This is a new series (written by Darryl) and dedicated to all of my wonderful wife’s readers.

WARNING: This material contains riotous embellishment, poignant observations and candid politically incorrect sterotyping!

Editor’s Note:  The views expressed in this post are not necessarily the views held by this Blog’s Writer/Editor.  Please take with a grain of salt, and please come back!  All posts by Darryl will be placed in the new category: Darryl’s Rant.


Winter.  My favourite season.  For about three months.  Then I grow tired of it, and I want the warmer months again.  But not for the same reason as you might share – I can’t stand how pathetic our winters here are.  Or ugly.  Seriously, who wants to see asphalt from november to march?  It is W I N T E R!!!!!!  Minus 5 to 15 should be daily highs! not nightly lows.


For those of you already shaking your head, rolling your eyes etc, let me lament:

I love driving in the winter.  It beats the boring and mundane commute that I’m forced to endure 300 days of the year.  Snow keeps things interesting.  The only time you catch me doing anything less than 10 under the speed limit is when I’m stuck behind some timid soul who lacks self confidence, skills, or decent tires or a combination of the three.  Have you ever watched “Canada’s worst driver”? I swear there aren’t enough candidates on it!  It’s tough to be me sometimes. 😉

So, to help you stay on the road a little better this winter, allow me to shed some insight into winer driving that de-mystifies how you actually make it from home to work and back again without dying.

In no particular order of importance:

#1.  Black ice.

blackice 1

Everybody’s dreaded fear.  Nothing is quite as heart-pounding-in-your-throat as thinking that at any moment you will try to turn gently with the road and instead go careening over the edge, family screaming and children crying as you hurtle over the edge of oblivion to a sharp and jagged, slow and painful sharp knife of a short life.  Seriously, it’s really not that bad.  Millions of people all over canada drive during the winter – everyday in fact.  You hear the odd story of disaster or read about it and think it’s as common as green grass.

Okay, here’s what you need to know: blackice 2

Even if it’s cold out and you can see snow on the ground, the road may actually be just fine. (Picture above is case in point)

Look at the road.  Really.  Is the reflective light off of is shiny or dull?  Ice because of it’s composition tends to be a dull reflection.  It’s especially easy to see if you are following someone at night, but either way, you can almost always see it unless it’s buried.  That’ll be covered in the feel part below.  You can also sometimes see spray reflecting from your marker lights at night in your mirrors.

Also, ice in and of itself is not actually slippery.  What is actually slippery is the thin film of water between your tire (or you) and the ice.  Most accidents typically happen between -5 and +2 on the roads.

Not all ice is the same, also.  There is a huge difference between black ice and white ice.  Black ice is usually very thin ice, caused by very small water droplets freezing on the road.  It’s usually fairly quiet when you drive on it.  White is is less of a problem, is usually very rough and noisy.  It’s not usually a huge problem.  Here are contrasting pictures:

blackice 3


One thing of note is that sometimes a section of road actually gets more slippery as the day goes on, even if it is still quite cold out.  The reason is probably this:  as a vehicle travels over a certain spot such as a tight corner (you slow down) or an intersection, the vehicle’s engine heat melts the surface of the snow/ice creating a liquid layer that is somewhat self-leveling, becoming smooth.  When the vehicle has passed, the cold air & ground then freeze this wet spot over and over again until it is very slippery. How to deal with this is covered in future posts.

Use your EARS.  You should (especially in newer quieter vehicles) be able to hear the sound of water splashing when the road is wet.

wet rd 1

Ice doesn’t make splashy sounds.   If you can’t hear the road, you are probably driving through at least an inch of soft snow, which may be slippery – covered next.  Ice doesn’t make a particular sound that I’ve noticed.  It’s a hard smooth surface that sounds like road.

Feel. This one seems to be overlooked – I don’t know why.  Maybe because you are terrified of going into an uncontrolled skid that you can never recover from and are going into the ditch faster than a frisbee thrown off-side.  Here it is: Put on the brakes.  Medium to hard, and only for a moment.tnsnow306

This will tell you as much about the road as a picture will tell you about a story (you may not even have to lock up the brakes- that inch of snow you’re driving on is blowing out of the way as you go and you slow down just fine). In the 1/4 second you had the brake(s) locked up, you just learned what the road is like.  A quick note: steer the direction you  want to go when you do this, and look in that direction too.   You may slide a little, but your vehicle WILL straighten out, and you can adjust your speed accordingly.  Also, don’t be dumb and do this when turning, or about to turn, or when flying down a steep hill, or when people are close behind you..  Practice this at slower speeds to gain confidence.  Use your brain when driving so it doesn’t cost you your pride.

Stay tuned for more winter confidence-building driving tips.


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