Staying Safe on the Roads this Winter

Dawson Van Pelt- All of us drivers in Steamboat Springs, Colorado have lost control of our cars at least once on the winter roads. People can agree that it is terrifying to slide while driving and go full hovercar on the ice. Here are some tips to help you navigate on this year’s winter roads.

Snow tires are important because of the way the traction is made and the chemical compound of synthetic rubber with metal fabric in the tire that increases control. The true difference between a snow tire and a summer tire is when the summer tire gets cold it stiffens up and loses traction. The chemical compound in a snow tire allows it to be flexible during the cold and keep the tires grip. Also, the their are two different kind of snow tires; studless and studded snow tires.

Studded snow tires have small strong metal studs built in the tire which is designed to dig into ice and compacted snow to add traction. The studs however dig into the road and damage it. This is the reason why some states limit studded tires and some just abolish studded snow tires altogether. They are also known for a little bit of a noisy ride down the road.

Studless tires have an advanced rubber compound to stay flexible in cold weather. Studless snow tires have more tread design with deeper tread for traction for snow and slush. The tread is designed to have better snow-on-snow traction by packing the tread full of snow and with thousands of tiny slits that act like biting edges for stopping and going.

How much tread is used in one winter season? A regular tire is 11/32” and in one year the tread decreases to about 9/32” so, about two sizes down from ConsumerReports.org.  

Don’t forget to change your tires you before the snow season. So, don’t put off putting them on for your and our safety.

What are the best snow tires? The best six snow tires all look and cost differently plus its per tire from the site http://www.caranddriver.com. Here is a list by price per tire and you can order studded or studless tires.

  1. Yokohama iceGuard iG52c with a tread depth of 11/32 and cost about $126.
  2. Continental Wintercontact SI with the tread depth of 10/32 and cost about $131.
  3. Dunlop Winter MAXX tires that have a tread depth of 12/32 and cost $134.
  4. Michelin X-ICE X13 that has a tread depth of 10.5/32 and cost around $152.
  5. Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 that has a tread depth of 12/32 and cost around $160.
  6. Nokian tire that has a tread depth of 11/32 and cost about $200.

Next, here are some mistakes everyone can and will make at least once this snow season.

First thing is never slam on the breaks, “A rolling tire has more traction than a sliding tires” says Kurk Spitzner From the founder of the Winter Driving School here in Steamboat Springs, Colorado on OutSideOnline.com. If you have ABS brakes and you start to slide you apply the brakes and put a good amounts of pressure and the brakes will automatically start to pump the brakes for you. If you do not have ABS brakes take your foot off the gas and start pumping your brakes until you gain control of the car or come to a complete stop.

Second, is going too fast for the road conditions and sliding off the road. You can get pulled over for going too fast for road conditions so, drive realistically and safely on the road.

Third, is the lack of emergency gear people have in their car , even if it’s a short drive, people forget to pack extra tools like blankets, gloves, boots, cell phone and a first aid kit. And if you get stuck you can use your floor matts of your car for traction to get out because who is going to keep a five pound sack of kitty litter in their car for this reason?  

Fourth, big events in the winter have bigger problems like, the over usage of alcohol and drunk drivers with the packed snow from the multiple cars driving over the same spot. When there is a lot of weight on the snow it compacts and turns into ice. Since not all people have snow tires and with more use of alcohol with big events be careful.

Last but not least is when people get stuck they leave their car which is a bad idea because, it’s most likely to be warmer than outside and can be your only source of shelter. If you wander off it is easier to lose sight of your car and get lost in the cold. As it is also easier to find a car than a human in snowy conditions. Next make sure you have the exhaust pipe clear or it could bring carbon dioxide into the cabin of the car. Best way to be spotted is if you have any flares is to put then on your car so people can see that an accident has occurred or keep your dome light on for responders to locate you.

When it comes to hills tread and momentum is everything. Hills are not the best in the winter season because if you stop or go to slow up the hill can either get stuck on the road or slide off the edge of the road. Your tires will work properly if you use these three best tips for winter driving in Steamboat Springs. Avoid hills if you can, plan ahead and slow down earlier than usual.

Now the situation of what to do when you have already lost control of your car. The best action to take when you have lost control is to steer the front wheels in the direction the the rear wheels are sliding and release the gas pedal and coast till you have regained control of the car or have came to a complete stop. If you have ABS brakes you apply pressure and stear where want to go and wait till you have gained control of the car.  

Thank you for taking the time to become a safer driver by reading this article and remember to stay in control of your car on the roads this winter and dominate the ice.