4 Winter Driving Tips from a Pro Racecar Driver

winter driving tips from a racecar driver
Photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger

by Greg Williams

If you live in parts of the United States and pretty much anywhere in Canada, chances are good you have to deal with winter driving conditions.

You know, slick and icy roads that usually equate to pileups and rollovers, fender benders and other minor collisions.

Professional racecar driver and instructor Allen Berg often finds himself driving by these traffic situations. He said he wonders how some of these cars and trucks wind up where they do.

“I see a lot of vehicles stopped in strange positions on the road,” Berg said. “And I think a lot of times people don’t give enough anticipation for accelerating or braking in slippery conditions.

“I see a lot of impatient drivers, and plenty of them in four wheel drive vehicles thinking they have more traction than they do, and they’re tailgating and don’t allow enough room for braking.”

How does Berg suggest drivers survive the black ice and snow?

“When you’re driving in these kinds of conditions, take your watch off,” he said. “It takes the amount of time it takes to get there – and people are simply overdriving for the conditions.”

Remember these tips when driving in icy winter conditions

Berg Has Four Tips He’d Like To Share To Those Who Brave The Roads On A Daily Basis:

1. ONE THING AT A TIME:

If you’re braking, you’re braking. If you’re steering, you’re steering. Apply the brakes before entering a corner, not during. “In these conditions you limit tire traction when applying two forces at once,” Berg said. He also said that a major cause of loss of control is due to rough use of the gas and brake pedals. “Stomping on the gas or brake pedal upsets the handling of the vehicle due to weight transfer,” he said. The amount of weight on each tire is critical to vehicle control. Upset the weight balance and it’s easy to go over the traction limit of the tires.

2. BE LIGHT ON THE CONTROLS:

This not only applies to the point above with the gas and brake pedals, but equally to the grip on the steering wheel. “You need a light sensitive feel on the steering wheel. The less of a death grip you have on the steering wheel the more you’ll feel the vehicle and the more finesse you’ll have,” Berg said.

3. USE YOUR EYES:

This comes back to Berg’s point about anticipating the time required for accelerating and braking. “Eighty to 90 per cent of the people who come through our course have incorrect use of their eyes when they’re driving,” Berg said. “They’re fixating on the vehicle right in front of them and they’re not using and trusting their peripheral vision.” Like Berg said, don’t simply watch the vehicle directly in front of you. Look ahead two, three or even four vehicles – if you see brake lights that far in front of you anticipate that you might have to apply your brakes. This is simply being proactive instead of reactive, and you’ll be a much better driver.

4. LEAVE PLENTY OF TIME:

“A mistake in slippery conditions could be fatal, you can’t rush it,” Berg explains. And for those who suggest some people are driving too slow – “It’s better to err on the side of caution,” Berg said. “Like I said, take your watch off when you’re driving in these kinds of conditions.”