Seven 'Sinful' Winter Driving Foibles

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

snow plowAnyone who has any familiarity with Christian scripture has probably heard of the seven deadly sins, which include sloth, greed, pride, envy and gluttony, just to name a few. According to Christian orthodoxy, these are all vices that mankind should be sure to steer clear of in their daily dealings.

In a similar vein - but with the focus on driving safety - Globe and Mail automotive contributor Peter Cheney put together his own incarnation of the seven most dangerous habits.

A leading destructive tendency is slothfulness - specifically as it relates to being lazy about cleaning the snow off of the car. Cheney noted that all too often, motorists think that they can get away with brushing snow only off of their windshields, while leaving frozen participation piled up on their vehicle's rooftop and rear window. While motorists may feel like they can operate their vehicle with a bare minimum of snow removed, it increases the risk of being involved in a car accident, perhaps leading to a car insurance claim, because the remaining snow can easily drift into motorists field of vision if they come to an abrupt stop.

Second on the list of winter driving sins is aggressiveness. Cheney said that driving aggressively during the cold weather months is most frequently evidenced by motorists driving close to a leading car's bumper, trying to urge them to drive faster. But this runs the risk of their being involved in an accident as well.

"In cold conditions, stopping distances are multiplied, and cornering traction is limited," said Cheney.

He indicated that instead of between two and five seconds of following distance, motorists should ideally increase their space between themselves and the nearest car to about 10 seconds.

Don't look down, look up

Then there's the issue of shortsightedness - in the literal sense, meaning that drivers will often look at what's directly in front of them instead of up ahead where all the traffic is and where the turns in the road are located.

There are at least three problems that come with this type of myopia, one of which is an inclination to overcontrol the steering wheel, the second being not adjusting in time for what's to come.

"Third, it compromises your ability to recover from a skid," said Cheney. "For proper control, you need to focus on a distant reference point."

When the roads are slippery, there's a tendency for motorists to tense up, fearful that they might get into a crash because they're not used to treacherous conditions. This type of paranoia, though, can be a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is why motorists should do their best to relax and not panic, the fourth winter driving sin. For example, instead of gripping the wheel hard, it's better to hold it loosely, Cheney stressed.

Another driving transgression is pride - or, to be specific, putting too much faith in automotive enhancements like all-wheel drive. Cheney stated that, contrary to what many people think, AWD doesn't enable motorists to drive the roads more smoothly, provide greater traction or cause the vehicle to come to a complete stop more quickly. It's main advantage is making it easier to accelerate.

This AWD misconception was also recently talked about by automotive guru Ian Law in a column he posted about the most common winter driving myths.

"AWD is a performance feature and not a safety feature," said Law. "This particular technology only helps a vehicle to accelerate. It does not help a vehicle to steer any better or stop in a shorter distance."

For more of Law's "myths" and Cheney's winter driving transgressions, can find them online in the newspapers' respective automotive sections.