As we head into our first winter storm weekend here in the lovely People's Republic of Austin, I hear many of my native Texan friends talking about how they have no idea how to drive in ice or snow. People who cannot drive in ice but insist on doing it are a danger to everyone else on the road. Therefore, your Friendly Midwestern Badger would like to give you some driving tips. Here are the rules for driving in ice and snow:
1. Don't. Before you leave, ask yourself, "How much do I REALLY need to be there?" Ask yourself if what's at stake is worth a couple grand of damage to your car or a hit on your insurance, because even if you're being really careful, someone can still hit YOU, and even if you're not hurt, accidents are expensive.
2. Plan ahead. Consider your route. How many bridges and overpasses does it contain? How many of those long curving flyovers Texans love so much? How many times will you come over a hill to find a sharp curve or a stop light at the bottom? These are all accidents waiting to happen. Once you have considered your optimal route, revisit question 1 before proceeding. If you still must proceed, double your expected trip time.
3. Go slow. Like really slow. Like ten or fifteen miles below the speed limit slow. Yes, your buddy who grew up in Wisconsin will laugh at you, but he learned to drive 60 in a blizzard at age 18 in a car made entirely out of cheese; you did not. Allow an extra carlength above and beyond your usual caution between you and the car in front of you.
4. You have no brakes. Do not use them, do not touch them. They are a trap. Control your car as much as humanly possible using changes in direction and acceleration; if you slam on the brakes, the terrorists win. Brakes will just add fuel to the fire of a skid.
5. Steer into the skid. Everyone says this, but if you've never done it, it's a really difficult thing to explain to you. Basically, when you feel your car start to slip, you'll have this impulse to fight it. Don't fight it. Zen that bitch out, embrace the skid, and pull your car *through* it instead of *against* it. If you have sufficient room, you'll be fine. Just pull over for a few minutes to regain your composure, because that first-ever skid is very alarming. To practice, Midwestern parents take their children for a day known as Shopping Mall Donut Day. On the first snowy day, large parking lots (like those at shopping malls before they open) are often full of helpful parents and friends teaching new drivers what the hell 'steer into the skid' means.
6. Aim for the ditch. If all these other rules fail you, and you find yourself in an out-of-control car, your only option is to *aim* it. You can't steer it, you can't stop it, you can't regain control, but you can *point* it at something. Point it at the ditch, point it at the grassy median, point it at the bushes. Having to wait two hours for a tow truck to pull your happy ass out of a clump of rosemary in your neighbor's front yard is vastly preferable to having to tell him you slammed into the car parked next to his driveway.
And above all, remember your manners and be aware, because not everyone has a Friendly Midwestern Badger. Remember that someone spinning through an intersection probably didn't have time to use his turn signal (and which way would he signal, anyway?). If you bump someone or someone bumps you, try to work it out without being a jerk about it.
Know what the inclement weather reporting rules are; in some states, during weather events you can report an accident for up to 24 hours afterwards instead of calling the police, if everyone involved agrees and no one is injured and the damage is minimal. Take advantage of that, because waiting an hour for an irritated cop to get OUT of a warm car in 30-degree weather to sign off on your scuffed bumper is a near-guarantee that you'll be ticketed for whatever the officer can find, while filing a walk-in report (if that's legal) usually means that *if* you're ticketed, it's purely for the 'failure to maintain safe speed' or 'failure to maintain control of your vehicle'. Just don't forget to report it, because if the other driver reports it and you don't, there can be trouble.
(seriously, if at all possible stay home and drink some damn cocoa instead. Light a fire in the fireplace you never get to use. This is Texas; it'll be 65 degrees in a day and a half)