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9 out of 10 drivers think that nobody else knows how to drive in the snow

Dec 9, 2019, 10:35 AM | Updated: 11:17 am
winter storm...
The Utah Department of Transportation is warning drivers that an upcoming winter storm will impact the road from 6 am Monday to noon Tuesday. Photo: Deseret News, file, 2017. Credit: Jeffrey D Allred

It seems like every year when the first big snow hits we see an increase of crashes and accidents on our roadways. In fact, there were 300 crashes across the state this year after a winter storm rolled in just before Thanksgiving.  So, if you’re wondering how competent your fellow drivers are when it starts to look like Christmas, you’re not alone.

In a new study commissioned by Discount Tire and conducted by OnePoll, researchers found if you question other drivers’ ability to drive in the white stuff, you’re not alone. Of the 2,000 surveyed, 91% of people don’t trust other drivers after the snow starts falling. 23% even say they have a friend or family member that they avoid hopping in the car with after it snows.

Those 91% though aren’t without fault. The study found that 64% of them feel that they are a safe driver, but 59% are less confident driving in winter months as opposed to the rest of the year.

That statistic is borne out in the rest of their survey too. 35% didn’t realize that they shouldn’t apply the brake coming down a hill. 30% didn’t know that cruise control should be avoided on slippery roads, and almost 1 in 4 (24%) didn’t realize that it is important to accelerate and decelerate more gently and slowly when the roads get slick or snowy.

So do we all just forget how to drive when it snows?

Psychology professor David Havas from the University of Wisconson Whitewater says that’s a strong possibility.

“When the streets are dry, your brain can control your car safely in most circumstances while moving at the speed limit. But snow and ice change the sensory-motor dynamics and your brain needs time to learn (or relearn) them,” he told Oshkosh Northwestern.

“Very often, the world changes faster than the brain learns, creating a learning lag,” he says.

The quick changes to driving conditions, in addition to our modern, comfort-centered vehicles might also be to blame Havas says.

He suggests a good way to retrain your brain is to spend a little time in a safe area and test the conditions.

“My parents taught me to test the conditions before driving out in snowy weather by trying some maneuvers in our cul-de-sac. I’d abruptly accelerate from a stop and then step on the brakes after a few feet just to see how much traction I could expect on the roads. It’s likely this helped my brain determine the context and adapt more quickly to the conditions.”

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9 out of 10 drivers think that nobody else knows how to drive in the snow