As a Cheese State native, I consider myself a highly experienced winter driver. It would be wrong of me to keep my winter driving tips to myself. Driving in winter weather takes practice and lots of it. With 17 winters of driving under my seatbelt, I feel I am a credible source for winter driving tips.
I haven’t always been a good winter driver. One particular blizzard, I decided to drive home from Green Bay to Wausau. It was 100 miles of icy roads in my 2001 Kia Sephia. Of course, I dressed myself appropriately in a skirt and heels for the trek.
The first time I went in the ditch on this drive, I was able to get myself out. It took a lot of gas and it smelled like what I imagine a NASCAR race to smell like by the time I rocked my way out of there. Twenty miles down the road, I landed in the second ditch. Thanks to a nice passerby, he had me pulled out quickly and on my way home.
Five miles from the Wausau exit, I had a semi fly by me and my little Kia was like, “hey — let’s go to the ditch for safety, again!” Another random act of kindness and four hours later, I was in my mom’s living room explaining why I drove in the blizzard.
If you spend any time with a Wisconsinite, ask them for winter driving stories. Some of my fondest winter driving tales occurred behind the wheel of a pink Dodge van delivering flowers for a local flower shop. That’s a separate blog entry for another time, though.
Winter Driving Tips from a Wisconsinite
(#1) Music Matters
Some say to turn off the radio and avoid all distractions when you’re driving. Especially in bad weather. If you’ve driven in the ‘nort woods’ during a blizzard with freezing rain, you know hitting the road can be life-threatening. This is why music matters.
If I’m going to walk into the white light, I have specific expectations for the music I’ll hear as I make my descent into the next life. Now, I know I can’t choose the exact song, so I consider this my musical roulette wheel. Whichever song happens play will determine my strut through the pearly gates. Here are my current song picks:
“I Will Always Love You” — Whitney Houston
This would be a complete reenactment of the airport scene, but instead of Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, it will be me running to Patrick Swayze. And it will be beautiful.
“Just Like Them Horses” — Reba McEntire
If Reba is going to send me into Heaven, she’s going to do it with this song.
“Hallelujah”— K.d. Lang
No question — it has to be this version of the song.
“Unchained Melody” — Righteous Brothers
This one would be my top pick because I’m all about making a dramatic entrance/exit.
For the “here she comes” entrance!
“YMCA” — Village People
Just in case I need something to do with my hands to avoid feeling awkward when I meet Keith Whitley for the first time
(#2) Ditch the Device
Once you have your own personalized playlist, start it before you leave the driveway. Or, the bar parking lot. (Wisconsinite, remember?) Then, put the device somewhere out of reach and ignore it until you reach your destination. When I see people texting while driving — even in clear conditions — I get sudden urges to play bumper cars. Do not put my life at risk to LOL at a stupid emoji someone just sent you. Well, unless it’s the poop emoji. You have to respond to that one because it’s hilarious.
(#3) Slow and Steady Wins the Race — Fast and Furious Meets the Ditch
When it comes to winter driving tips, this is one of the most important. Four-wheel drive does nothing for icy conditions. At times, when I’m driving in Wisconsin, I can’t help but wonder if the bigger the vehicle means the dumber the driver. If I didn’t have Snapchat and a full-time job, this could be an excellent research project. Plus, I hate research.
(#4) BACK OFF
Tailgating is only cool if you’re topless and painted in your team’s colors, hydrating yourself with a beer helmet. It’s never cool on the roads — especially in bad road conditions. Slow down and leave more than a usual amount of space between you and the next vehicle.
For a picture of how much space you should leave, imagine a long trailer with the top ten tallest basketball players of all time laying down head-to-feet in a human chain. Following that is a line of 15 elephants on their way to a circus. That should be enough space, but leave another row of basketball players just to play it safe.
(#5) Take Care of Your Vehicle
Whatever you do, don’t even think about driving around on bald tires. Unless you’re broke and can’t afford new tires, then go ahead. But, be even more careful than normal if you’re driving around with tires as smooth as Mr. Clean’s head. Try to avoid routes with stop signs, stoplights, any traffic whatsoever, and inclines. You’ll be sliding around like your car is wearing fuzzy socks on a freshly Pledged hardwood floor. (Side note: If you haven’t tried this and have no problem breaking a hip, you should try it.)
(#6) Stay Home
Seriously. Stay home. Pull out your Elf, Home Alone 1 & 2, Christmas Vacation, and Rudolf DVDs. Make hot chocolate and leave the roads open to those of us who have to drive to work. A blizzard is not the time to drive around aimlessly because you have nothing better to do. It’s also not the time to cruise by your ex’s house to see what they’re up to. That’s what Facebook is for.
With a few more months of winter ahead, be safe out there, y’all!