SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – When you’re traveling on the roads this winter, checking your car’s tires, gas and windows are important. But, you also want to check the weather before your trip.
Every year, thousands of people are injured in car accidents on snowy, icy, or rainy roads, which is why we all need to know some of the things that will help us stay safe on the roads when conditions are bad.
One of the places to learn how to drive in these conditions is right here in the Upstate, in Greer.
Matt Mullins, chief driving instructor at BMW’s Performance Driving School, said you can learn a lot about driving from the experience.
“Here at the BMW Performance Driving School, we teach all kinds of driving based on learning to control a car when it gets to the limit of the tire’s grip.”
Mullins said the school teaches two things: Car control and safety.
Driving in winter weather means you have to know how to drive when the roads are dangerous for different conditions.
Snow and ice can leave your car with no traction and that can leave you on a ride into an accident.
“You have to plan way ahead. You’ve got to slow down early,” Mullins said. “The whole ‘Stop on a Dime’?” That’s not going to happen on ice. So, we’re trying to teach these things: how to judge the conditions and make good choices.”
We have to worry about ice and snow for only a few months each year, but there is another big potential hazard on the roads all year, and that’s rain.
Mullins said when you get into wet road situations you lose about 30% of the grip. It just goes down and the car is not going to respond the way it did.
If you get into ice you lose about 80% of the grip.
BMW offers several classes and courses to the public that teach you how to navigate difficult driving conditions like snow, ice and rain.
And while it’s one thing to talk about it, when you come to the school they put you on the track and put you in the situation on the “Skid Pad.”
Mullins said it’s the only way you’re going to experience that in a safe environment and that’s the only way you learn it.
The “Skid Pad” is a fun experience to get your heart pumping and that it isn’t just for fun, rather a way to learn how your car and you should react to sliding on the road.
So, the lesson here is to learn not to fight the car.
Driving instructors, like Mullins, also teach you to practice CPR.
“Luckily that doesn’t involve a doctor! Correct. Pause. And recover. The Correct, that’s when you have to turn the wheel and steer into the skid to stop the rear from coming around. The Pause is once we correct it, we wait. And once that rear goes back, you have to take that correction out.”
For each road condition the advice is the same: PLAN AHEAD.
Mullins said if your vehicle starts hydroplaning, “you really don’t have much control. So again, it’s all about noticing that … you drop the speed down, leave more distance. Get a plan. Don’t just show up and be surprised that everybody’s hitting the brakes and you had no idea that was going to happen. It’s probably going to happen in that weather.”
These tips can help keep you safe on the road, but remember in each case slower speeds, keeping distance between cars, and putting down distractions — like your phone — are important, too.