11 Feb 2019
Driving to Lake Tahoe in the middle of a snowstorm has always been a challenge. The last few winters, however, there seems to be even more havoc. Interstate 80 and other major roads close often during snow storms, even though Cal Trans and the counties do an excellent job of getting after the snow as soon as they can. Part of the problem is surely caused by California’s increased population, and the desire of more and more folks to come to Tahoe and ski. I mean look at this place, who could blame them? But I think much of the problem is related to a lack of an understanding of winter driving, so, I thought I would throw out a few tips I acquired from 40 years of winter driving:
While it might seem counterintuitive, I believe more accidents are happening because more drivers have four wheel drive vehicles than ever before…and they assume that means they now have magical powers and can drive just as fast on the snow as on dry pavement. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way. When the roads are snowy, we need to drive slower.
When chain controls are in effect the speed limit is either 25 or 30 mph depending upon the road. In addition to driving slow, give plenty of room between you and the car in front of you, and anticipate actions you will need to take in advance. Got a right turn coming up? Slow down well in advance and take the turn slowly.
Four wheel drive is good. But you also need a good pair of snow tires on that car. And an understanding that a four wheel drive car will still have challenges turning and stopping in the snow.
Remove all the snow from your car before driving. That big fluffy white stuff will slide right off the roof onto your front windshield when you hit the brakes. And then you will be an accident in progress when you can’t see a thing out your window and wiper blades can’t cut through a six inch deep pile of snow.
Watch the forecast. Plan your activities around the storms, instead of around your schedule. The snow storm really doesn’t care that you need to work late on Friday or get to an early meeting on Monday. If it’s a big storm, you will be much better off delaying the trip until after the storm. And if you are here and the road conditions are horrendous. Stay home. Stoke the fire, Take a ski around the neighborhood and wait for the conditions to improve.