Driving Us Crazy

When snow hits Colorado's streets, all hell breaks loose.

Like nearly every other problem in Colorado, it's easiest to lay blame for incompetent winter driving on Californians and Texans. But even true natives can get into trouble on the road. Mark Cox, director of the Bridgestone Winter Driving School in Steamboat Springs (www.winterdrive.com), helps us dispel some common winter driving myths. —PD

Myth I: 4WD makes me indestructible.
Sure, your Jeep can climb over deep snow, but 4WD or all-wheel drive is not a cure-all for icy, winter roads. "4WD doesn't let you brake or turn any better than two-wheel vehicles," Cox says. The bottom line: Don't let your extra traction make you think you're Superman.

Myth II: Heavy snow makes for the toughest driving.
Not according to Cox. "Deep snow is fairly easy to drive in," he says—you just need to have a good set of snow tires and go slow. "The thaw cycle, when old snow is breaking down, makes for uneven roads—you're going from dry pavement to slush to ice. That's the most dangerous." His advice? Stop ripping through the melting mess.

Myth III: My all-season tires are just as good as snow tires.
Not quite. "Lots of people believe that all-season tires are all you need—and they're probably fine in Denver," Cox says. "But if you're regularly driving into the mountains, that's not the case." Investing in a pair of snow tires for the winter can be pricey, but it sure beats sliding off I-70 on your way to Vail.

Myth IV: My car keeps skidding out for no reason.
"The car is just a tool," Cox says. "It responds to human control. And just because you're sliding, it doesn't mean it is out of control." If you're skidding while trying to turn, your car is understeering. Take your foot off the gas or brake, and turn the wheel slightly back toward straight to regain traction. If you're fishtailing, or oversteering, steer into the skid and lightly tap the accelerator.

Myth V: If I get stuck on the road, the police will save me.
They might. Or they might not. Be prepared and stock your car with food, water, a blanket, clothing and boots, a flashlight, and jumper cables. Alternatively, if the weather is getting bad, get off the road. "Sometimes the most prudent thing to do is to pull off to someplace safe and wait out the weather," Cox says.