During the winter months, the High Country area will often have snow, ice, fog, cold rain, sleet, or some combination of all the above. Many visitors to our area may be experiencing these conditions for the first time. While they are beautiful to look at, snow and ice can be very tricky to drive in so we at BRNCG thought it may be helpful to offer the following tips and suggestions.
The #1 best thing you can do in ANY weather, good or bad, is to turn ON your headlights! It is NC state law to have your headlights on anytime your wipers are in use, for your own safety during times of decreased visibility. You may not realize this, but burning your headlights also means that the tail running lights will be on in most vehicles, so you will be more visible from both front and back. And running lights (the amber lights on the outsides of the headlights) do not count as headlights, even though they will cause the headlights on indicator light to appear on your dashboard.
- DO NOT turn on your hazard flashers during foggy conditions. This makes it more difficult for others to see in decreased visibility due to the slow strobe effect.
- Make sure your car battery is in good condition. Advance Auto Parts offers free battery checks year-round.
- Clear snow off your car before traveling- if you fail to do this, the wind will remove it for you, throwing it onto other vehicles and creating a serious hazard.
- Watch out for other cars at all times! You know your own driving skill level but you don’t know if the person in the oncoming car is driving for the first time in snow. Assume everyone around you has never seen snow before.
- If the road is slick, do not hesitate to drive on the shoulder or another level grassy or rocky part that will give you more traction. Make sure to drive slowly if you do use the shoulder, though.
- Keep an emergency kit in your car, including cat litter, water and snacks, and a blanket.
- Make sure you have at least a half tank, if not a full tank of gas before the weather gets bad. Not only does this help keep you warm in case you do get stuck, but you will have added weight for traction.
- Temperatures at or below 32 means there may well be black ice on the roads even without snow. If you are not sure, roll your window down a little a listen for the splashy wet sounds your tires make going through water. If you do not hear that, the road is most likely frozen.
- Leave LOTS of room between you and the vehicle in front of you in order to follow and slow down safely. AAA recommends that the following distance be increased from 5-6 seconds to 8-9 seconds.
- If you do get stuck, stay in the car until help arrives, but remember to crack your window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Do not ever use cruise control while driving on wet, slick, or snowy roads.
- Remember to let others know of your route and estimated time of arrival at your destination if you must travel in bad weather.
- Make sure your cell phone is charged and is in a location where you can access it if you should come into distress. If it’s left lying in the seat, it will go flying if you get into an accident, so secure it somewhere reachable.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly- don’t slam on the gas and brakes. Slowly accelerating is the best way to gain traction, and keep in mind that it takes longer to slow down on slick roads.
- If you have to climb a slick hill, try to get a running start BEFORE you get onto the hill. Momentum will be your best friend as you climb a hill, and as you crest the hill and start back down the other side, slow down and go as carefully as possible. Use downgears to go downhill instead of brakes.
- Do not pass snow plows or trucks. Not only is their visibility decreased, but the roads in front of them are likely worse than behind.
- Decrease tire pressure to around 25 psi or until you see a slight bulge where the tire meets the road. This increases the tire surface area that’s in contact with the road which greatly increases traction. (Note that decreasing your tire pressure too much will substantially reduce your gas mileage so make sure you have plenty of fuel!)
- Do not let anyone in the car speak loudly, scream, or otherwise distract the driver.
- If you start to slide, steer INTO the skid. If you are sliding left, steer left. If the wheels start to slide the other way, ease the wheel towards that side. Do not whip the steering wheel back and forth.
- The Blue Ridge Parkway is often closed in winter weather because it is not plowed or slagged. Do not rely on your GPS for directions in bad weather as they often route you via the Parkway!
- If you get stuck, do not spin your wheels as this only digs you in deeper. Pour your cat litter in the path of the wheels to help gain traction.
If you should get stuck in a ditch and can’t get out, call any of these local towing services if you do not have AAA.
Bill’s Garage – 828-264-4623 or 828-265-3400
Hampton’s Towing – 828-264-3924
Hickman’s Hook 24hr Towing – 828-964-3343
The bottom line is this:
Always take extra care and time when you are travelling during inclement weather. Absolutely nothing is worth your life or the life of another motorist.
What tips and advice would you add to the list above? We will edit this page to include your thoughts!
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All text & photos copyright 2016 Cassandra Ellison, Blue Ridge NC Guide. No portion of this article is to be copied, saved, or otherwise distributed without express written consent. Author received no compensation, monetary or otherwise, in exchange for this article.