by Hollie McAfee

I have had Maine winter driving experience for decades. I take many of the safety tips I first learned for granted, but, I am relearning some of the basics now that I have a teenage driver.

For instance, I recently drove my kids to school on a cold morning without starting it first to warm up. We jumped in the vehicle and headed down the road. I couldn’t see through the frost, so I put the windshield wipers on high and blasted the washer spray. I said, “Ok, this is something you should NOT do when you are driving.” Obviously, this is not the best confession from someone who works for an insurance agency. Here are some other confessions.

Embarrassing windshield wipers:

I’ve been known to let my windshield wipers wear out to the point where I can’t see a thing. I don’t do that now. The minute I see a streak across my vision, I replace those wipers so my daughter will always be able to see.

Too much snow on the top of my car: Maine Winter Driving Experience

When I was quite young, I would only clear the snow off the windshield and windows, but not the roof of my car. I learned this lesson before I even had a kid driving. I’ve seen some pretty scary, huge sheets of ice flying off the tops of vehicles on the road. It’s more time-consuming, but I now make sure the snow is brushed off my entire vehicle.

Don’t really know what to do when sliding:

I confess that I never really got which way you were supposed to turn if your vehicle starts sliding on ice. Luckily, anytime I’ve slid a little bit, I’ve been able to instinctively regain control, but I couldn’t tell you how. I recently rode shotgun with my daughter during a snowstorm and was giving her tips on allowing herself more time to stop. She said, “Ok, Mom, if I start to skid, just tell me what to do then.” I don’t know what I would have told her, so I just kept nagging her to slow down. My research indicates that you should gradually turn the wheel into the skid.

Back in the 80s, we were told not to slam your brakes if you slide. Instead, we were told to pump the brakes to help the wheels grip the road. Now that anti-lock brakes will essentially pump the brakes for you, we’ve had to relearn this skill. The feature is engaged by pressing on the brake firmly and letting it do the work.

Not dressed for the weather:

I’m surprised I never suffered from hypothermia as a young person. I drove around all year round with boat shoes and no socks. I’ve realized through experience that comfort is much more important than fashion. So, I now make sure I have adequate footwear for winter conditions. If I were to break down, I would not want to walk barefoot through the snow.  My kids wouldn’t want to either. Now, I keep extra outerwear in my vehicle in case of an emergency.

Mainers laugh at “outsiders” who don’t know how to handle winter driving because we have experience, even if we do neglect some of the basics over time. It’s always a good idea to brush up on our skills, and teach them to our kids.