Advice for beginning motorists: Safe travels include practice, slow driving and proactive thinking

Lauren Koscielniak, Writer

Quick Tips:

  1. Remain calm at all times and avoid any distractions such as phones and the radio.
  2. Plan ahead and allow yourself plenty of time to get to your destination so you can drive slowly.
  3. Watch the weather prior to going out and decide whether it is safe to drive or not. If there are a lot of reported accidents, try to stay off the roads unless it is an emergency.
  4. Practice driving in the winter with a parent, guardian or
    trusted adult to gain confidence in seasonal driving conditions.

His grasp on the wheel slipped and he tried to keep his car under control as he skid over a thin, black sheet of ice. Another car rounded the corner and the slammed on his brakes. Both cars glided across the road, unable to regain control.
Michigan winters call for specialized driving techniques and either snow tires or all-season tores with good treads. Drivers in Michigan face snow and ice each year, having to adjust their skills in a matter of minutes to get around safely and efficiently.

“I go really slow,” drivers training instructor Patricia Gray said. “Normally on a dry road I tend to be a little fast, but in the winter I react differently and my following distance increases, It makes me feel more comfortable because then I know I have time and if I hit a patch of ice, I know that I won’t slide into somebody.”

According to the website Icy Road Safety, 70 percent of all winter deaths occur because of icy roads, but the risk is mostly in the hands of new drivers. For this reason, when teens are added to their parents’ insurance plan, the insurance price skyrockets with each accident. Age is a major factor that insurance companies look at when writing a car insurance quote.

“I went off the road one time 15 or 20 years ago,” Gray said. “I was driving too fast on a country road. It was snow covered and hit a slippery patch, spun out and around and ended up facing the other way. I did not need insurance for that accident; however, you need a police report to make an insurance claim. Then you make a claim to your insurance an you have to pay the deductible. The driver pays the first $500-1000 of any damage to the car and the insurance covers the other portion; your insurance rates go up in a result.”
Because of a lack of experience, new drivers are often unfamiliar with the winter weather Michigan receives. Frozen, glazed, slushed and busy roads are all factored into the nerves of new drivers.

“I would recommend that a nervous driver should drive through the snow for the first time with their parents,” Gray said. “Even if they have their level two license, they should still bring their parents or an experienced driver they trust to help them.”

The time of day is another determiner. New drivers especially should practice with the best visibility for safe driving.
“I would stay away from the mornings if you’re nervous,” gray said. “In the afternoon, the snow is usually melted off the road. At night, it’s colder and it’s darker, so it’s harder to drive at night than in the morning. The best time to practice if you’re trying to get experience in the winter would be right after school.”

As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect”. However, experience and caution may not be enough to avoid the inevitable fender benders that can come from winter driving. That being said, as drivers pull out of their driveways this winter, this advice and these tips should be kept in mind.