Driving in New York City is challenging any time of year but especially when temperatures plummet and snow and ice cover the roads. Driving in winter weather requires great caution and it’s helpful to explode some of the myths about wintertime driving.
Many of the driving tips people grew up hearing from parents and friends simply aren’t true, especially with technology changing vehicles and tires. In fact, some of the information passed on from one generation to another could cause more danger on the roads in harsh conditions.
Recognizing these commonly held myths for what they are could make your driving experience safer. Consider the reality compared to these myths:
Myth: Winter tires are needed only for snow and ice.
Truth: While it is true that winter tires work well in slippery conditions, they really perform best on cold pavement, because unlike summer and all season tires that can turn hard in extremely cold weather, winter tires are designed to be pliable and stick better to pavement in frigid conditions, according to an accuweather.com article. The newest winter tires provide flexibility that also improves braking and handling, in addition to traction, bridgestoneamericasmedia.com reports.
Myth: All wheel drive vehicles handle every problem on snowy roads.
Truth: These modern vehicles can give motorists a better margin for driving errors because they split the grip between four tires instead of two, but that doesn’t guarantee safer driving on snow and ice. In fact, they can create a false sense of security for drivers by making them assume the vehicle is better for stopping and turning corners, Bridgestone Winter Driving School Director Mark Cox said. That simply isn’t the case, according to Cox, who said tire grip is really what makes the difference for stopping and making turns.
Myth: All season tires work well in the winter too.
Truth: Running all season tires on your vehicle throughout the year is a compromise, because the tires are made to give medium performance in the summer and winter, according to Bridgestone. All season tires aren’t as pliable as winter tires during bitterly cold weather and don’t give vehicles the best traction possible. It could take 30 to 40 percent more distance to stop in harsh conditions with all season tires compared to winter tires, according to a globeandmail.com article.
Myth: Letting some of the air out of your tires will give them better traction on snow and ice because you’ll have more rubber on the road.
Truth: This legend is exactly the opposite of reality because under inflated tires lose their performance, effectiveness, and safety and can be damaged in winter weather, according to Bridgestone. In fact, falling temperatures can cause your tires to lose air, requiring you to make sure they are properly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended rate, which can be found on the inside of the door.
Myth: You can stop quicker by locking up the tires.
Truth: Locking up the brakes to keep the tires from turning can stop you on snow, especially if you have a newer vehicle with a modern anti lock brake system (ABS). But it can also cause you to lose control of the steering. If your car has an ABS, keep your foot on the brake pedal. If not, pump the brakes gently. Braking hard with anti lock brakes will make the skid worse. Bridgestone suggests braking and accelerating slower than in normal conditions and avoiding slamming on the brakes.
Myth: When you run into black ice, you can no longer control your vehicle.
Truth: When the vehicle starts sliding, keep your eyes in the direction you need to go and lightly grip the steering wheel instead of white knuckling it. When you begin to decelerate, you will slowly regain control as the tires grip imperfections in the snow or ice on the road. Gently control the steering wheel to keep from spinning. Keep in mind that bridges and overpasses are likely to freeze first.
Myth: Big tire treads mean better traction in snow and ice.
Truth: Those wide treads might look macho, but new technology for winter tires is based on shallower treads with grooves spaced closely together to remove the water film caused when tires force down ice and snow.
Myth: Tires with a snowflake symbol work equally well in winter weather.
Truth: Manufacturers must show that tires meet minimum standards to put a snowflake logo on them signifying that they are winter tires. However, tests show that all winter tires don’t perform the same.
Myth: Warming up your car makes it run better in the bitter cold.
Truth: Letting your car idle might have been a good idea 30 or more years ago when most vehicles had a carburetor. But modern cars are equipped with electronic fuel injection that uses sensors to supply the engine with the right mix of air and fuel, making the need to warm up engines irrelevant, according to a washingtonpost.com article. The engine will warm up faster while the car is being driven.
Myth: Letting a car idle helps it run more efficiently in cold weather.
Truth: Tests show a five minute warm up increased fuel consumption by seven to 14 percent and a 10 minute warmup took 12 to 19 percent more fuel. And, the bigger the engine and longer the warm up, the more fuel that was burned without traveling, the washingtonpost.com article shows.
Winter is the most difficult season for driving in New York City. Even if you are well prepared for winter driving, other drivers may not be. So drive slowly and defensively. If you are injured in an accident caused by another driver’s disregard for winter driving conditions, talk to a New York car accident attorney about your legal options.