Mother Nature showed no mercy at the start of the new year, slamming the Midwest and Northeast with its first snowstorm on Jan. 2 and 3, 2014. The blizzard closed major expressways throughout the I-95 corridor and created treacherous travel conditions for drivers in the area.
Since then, several waves of cold and snow have caused disruptions. Last week, snow and ice wreaked havoc on travel all the way into the South, including the Atlanta and Birmingham areas.
In order to stay safe, motorists should steer clear of these four winter driving myths:
1. Winter Tires Aren't a Necessity:
"Most people think a winter tire is just for ice and snow, but it is better performing on cold pavement," Director of Bridgestone Winter Driving School Mark Cox said.
Unlike summer or all-season tires, which get hard in cold air, winter tires stay pliable down to the lowest temperatures, according to Cox. These tires also stick well to the pavement in wintry conditions.
While all-wheel drive splits grip between four tires instead of two thus allowing the driver a greater margin of error, simply having all-wheel drive does not enable a person to be necessarily safer in the snow.
"All wheel-drive creates a false sense of confidence, people assume that the vehicle stops and corners better but that is not the case," Cox said. "When it comes to turning and stopping, all vehicles are created equal."
3. All-Season Tires are Fine for Winter:
Sneakers can be worn in the summer and the winter, but a person gets better comfort and performance if they wear sandals in the summer and snow boots in the winter. The same goes for tires, Cox explains.
Commuters drive on snowy road in Chicago, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
"An all-season tire is a compromise, it is engineered to be medium in the summer and medium in the winter," Cox said.
Due to the engineering of an all-season tire, these tires do not stay as soft as a winter tire in lower temperatures and as a result are simply not as effective in colder weather.
4. For Better Traction, Under Inflate Tires:
This legendary myth is far from the truth, as under inflation of a tire takes away from performance, effectiveness and safety.
"When temperatures are dropping you lose one pound of inflation for every 10-degree drop in temperature," Cox said.
Under inflation can actually damage tires when withstanding winter weather. For the best performance, tires should be inflated to the car's manufacturers recommended inflation rate which is listed on the inside of the car door.
When out on the roads, drivers only have control of three things; the brake, the accelerator and the steering and wintry weather adds additional challenges.
"It takes from four to 10 times longer to stop on ice and snow than on dry pavement," Cox said. "The more slippery it is, the more critical it is that the driver be smooth with all of their inputs."
Due to the limited amount of grip on the roadway, drivers must be 100 percent effective in every moment they make with the goal being to maintain as much grip as possible.
To help ensure safety when driving in wintry conditions, see the tips below from Chief Operating Office for the Snow and Ice Management Association Brian Birch.
Tips For Safe Winter Driving:
1. Clear the top of the car, the windshield and the windows of all snow and ice before driving.
2. Always bring warm clothes and extra water in the car with you.
3. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
4. Double the amount of space you would normally put between you and the car in front of you.
5. Brake and accelerate slower than normal.
6. Do not slam on the brakes, if you can help it.
7. Know that many people are nervous when driving in winter weather and use caution when passing.
8. Stay 50 to 100 feet away from an active plow truck when possible.