Whether in rain or snow, driving in the winter months requires extra caution as it can become dangerous in freezing temperatures. In the following interview, Mr Jan Kopeckyprofessional rally driver, factory driver of SKODA and 2018 WRC 2 World Champion, gives some valuable tips on how drivers can recognize dangerous road conditions in time and keep their car under control even in the most difficult situations.
Jan, as rally drivers you are used to driving in difficult conditions, at high speeds on wet roads, snow and ice. On public roads, drivers can also face similar conditions, especially in winter. What can we do to be prepared?
Jan Kopecky: The most important thing for every driver is to concentrate on the steering wheel, always drive at a sufficient distance from other vehicles and maintain the correct speed. Drivers should always check the weather forecast before setting off. Starting any journey earlier can reduce stress, especially on the way to the office.
Before starting, the car should be completely free of snow and ice, visibility should be unobstructed. Only then can one react correctly to any contingency. The driving style must necessarily be adapted to the road conditions. The tires must always be in perfect condition (even better if they are “winter”), with sufficient tread depth and, especially in January or February, chains must also be available, which the driver knows how to install quickly and safely .
How can we perceive that the road will be slippery or icy?
Hills: In cold temperatures, darker spots on the road are a sign of slippery surfaces and generally if the road has a shiny appearance you should let off the gas. When there is snow on the ground, the road surface is often slippery. Salt can turn snow into water, which also increases the risk of slipping.
Your speed should also be reduced when the snowfall is continuous as the road may be frozen under the snow, which is not immediately noticeable. In such situations you drive sensibly, you should always maintain a distance of several meters or three seconds from other drivers so that you can react.
What is the best way to react when approaching a slippery section of road?
Hills: Rule number one: keep calm and don’t panic. First of all, on a snowy or icy road the driver should reduce his speed by at least half, because in these weather conditions the braking distance is three to four times longer. To prevent the car from skidding and losing control, sharp driving and braking should be avoided.
Personally, I ride like I have eggs on the pedals. In cars with a manual transmission, the clutch must be depressed if the vehicle starts to spin. If the car skids in a turn, it is usually enough to turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid to regain control. When you want to change lanes and there is snow in between, it is better to press the clutch and let the car move to the other lane with a little more momentum.
What can we do to prevent the wheels from spinning on slippery roads?
Hills: When driving a modern SKODA, traction control helps in such cases. On vehicles with a manual transmission, you can select second gear to start and play with the clutch and gas pedal a bit to avoid spinning, especially when starting.
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