The harshest driving conditions you're likely to encounter often occur in the winter. Rain, snow, and ice can all spell disaster on the roads, and with the freezing conditions we've recently experienced across the country, there's been plenty of carnage on the nightly news. We all know that reducing your speed can reduce the risk of coming unstuck and avoiding driving in bad weather can remove the risk altogether, but sometimes that's just not possible. Here are our winter driving tips on technology that helps you stay connected to the road and in control:
The ability of the car's tires to grip the road surface is the main ingredient to surviving the icy winter roads. Plenty of new SUVs and even some passenger cars are now constant all-wheel drive. This technology reduces wheel spin by delivering power to all four wheels instead of the conventional two wheels, which greatly enhances handling when accelerating in slippery conditions. The technology was developed in rally cars that are constantly driven at high speeds in poor-traction conditions such as mud and snow to reduce wheel spin and improve race times. It's now common in road cars and is regarded as one of the best safety features for winter driving and one of our top winter driving tips.
We've all had one of those moments on a wet or icy road when you just give it a bit too much gas coming out of the corner. A rear-wheel-drive car will over steer and send you into a tail slide. With front-wheel drive you'll under steer or lose your steering altogether. Either way, it's not a good feeling when it happens and can be potentially dangerous.
Anti-lock braking systems (ABS), advanced traction control, and full vehicle-stability control systems have all been huge advances in safety technology. Using wheel-speed sensors to detect traction loss while braking, ABS can distribute an even amount of braking force to all four wheels to reduce skidding and apply more effective braking even when you panic and try to push the brake pedal through the floor.
A late-night trip home has seen the weather turn to heavy rain and low visibility. If you can barely see a few feet in front of you, you may decide it's time to pull over and wait it out. But imagine that before you get the chance, a deer has jumped in front of you, and you panic and slam on the brakes. In a vehicle not equipped with ABS you would almost certainly skid and lose control of the car, putting yourself, your family, and the deer all in harm's way. With ABS, the vehicle's brakes are automatically feathered to control traction loss and brake more effectively no matter how hard you hit the brake pedal. Steering is maintained as long as you have traction so you can steer around the obstacle while braking.
These same wheel-speed sensors can be used to reduce wheel spin on acceleration by automatically applying a small amount of braking force to the wheels that have lost traction. Traction control can be effective in preventing you from losing control of the car when accelerating out of corners in wet or icy conditions. An improvement on this technology is electronic stability control (ESC) or dynamic stability control (DSC). Again, using wheel-speed sensors and steering wheel-angle sensors to detect a loss of steering control, the system automatically applies brakes to certain wheels to prevent under steer and over steer. It can also restrict power delivery to the motor to help control the vehicle when steering loss is detected.
An icy interstate highway can be your worst nightmare when an oncoming car skids out of control and heads toward you. No amount of braking will help in this situation, and the only way out is to steer around the out-of-control car. Stability control is known for saving lives in these situations, keeping your wheels turning and preventing your tires from sliding against cornering forces on slippery surfaces so that you can steer your way clear of obstacles.
Prevention is better than a cure, and knowing where the bad weather is while you are on the road is going to help you avoid the worst of it. The modern car infotainment system has a range of features, and one of its handiest is access satellite radio such as Sirius and Pandora. It can upload live weather updates to your car's navigation system, including weather warnings, forecasts, and maps.This can be handy for those big road trips.
Imagine you have a big interstate trip planned to Aspen for winter fun on the slopes, but the weather isn't looking very promising. Just as you leave Cedar City, your car's in-car weather feature alerts you of a severe weather warning for the Salina and Thousand Lakes Mountain area. You know the weather can be extreme in those mountain areas, so you check your navigation system for alternative routes. By traveling further north to Provo, you can avoid the weather and any road closures or delays caused by the storms. Besides, you always wanted to check out the lakes area anyway.
You can't always avoid bad weather, but having technology that will help you stay connected to the road is one of the best winter driving tips we can give. Car manufacturers are now thinking outside the square to make winter driving a lot safer. It's no longer just about the best traction aids — in-car technology is now helping us plan ahead and stay on the straight and narrow.