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Fear of Winter Driving (Driving in Snow): Overview and How to Overcome It

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Overview

Driving on a clear road with the sun shining on you is quite a relaxing image to think of. But replace that with a snowy path and a cloudy day, and you get a frightening picture to behold.

The fear of winter driving is real and is an incredibly common fear. Though it does not have an official name, it’s related to the fear of driving and the fear of incremental weather conditions. 

For some who fear driving, it is a frightening thought to drive in winter months, especially, if they live in a region that is known to receive heavy amounts of snowfall. But even for those who don’t fear driving, steering through thick layers of snow is a dangerous activity, fraught with many risks and hazards. 

However, if you know the right way to drive in winter and make sure your vehicle is winter-ready, you can easily overcome your fears and drive on a snow-covered road without feeling too anxious or nervous. This article is about the Fear of Winter Driving (Driving in Snow): Overview, Causes and Solutions. 

Fear of Driving

Before we explore the fear of winter driving, let’s first understand the primary cause of this fear. As stated above, for some people, the fear of driving in winter stems from the general anxiety of driving any vehicle

The mere thought of handling a vehicle on their own gets people nervous and at times panicky. This fear can be caused by many incidents or events. Car accidents, driving to new locations, claustrophobia or the thoughts of being trapped inside a vehicle, and the fear of losing control are but some of the reasons why a person may be reluctant to get behind the wheel. 

Chionophobia or Fear of snow 

If you look closely at the fear of winter driving, it’s a combination of fear of driving and the fear of snow or chionophobia. Intense fear of snow is categorized within the natural environment phobia. 

It’s not a dislike of snow that gives birth to this fear; it’s the fear of death or bodily harm caused by snow that builds up this type of fear. Even chionophobia does not operate alone. There are two primary fears lurking behind chionophobia: the fear of being trapped in snow or becoming snowbound, and the fear of being stranded in extremely cold winter conditions. 

Causes Behind the Fear of Winter Driving

For some people, the phobia over driving in snowy weather conditions is so crippling that a mere chance of snow throws them into a panic attack. They start shaking, have trouble breathing and feel lightheaded on the prospect of having to drive in icy weather conditions. 

But what causes such a response? Often, the answer lies in some form of past instance, where snow was the main factor behind a traumatic experience. However, other factors can also lead to the buildup of fear. We have compiled a list of the major causes leading to such fears followed by a solution.

Negative Past Experiences

While the main cause of this fear is bad weather conditions, particularly snow, they are other factors that correspond to the rise of fear. If one digs deeper, one can often find some negative past experiences that may have given rise to the fear of driving in the snow. It’s possible that a person may have suffered a terrible road accident while they were driving in snowy weather or been stranded on the road in harsh winter conditions.

Inexperienced in Driving Through Snow

Driving in snowy conditions isn't the same as driving in dry or wet conditions. It is an altogether different driving experience, one that takes skill and training to master. A lack of driving experience in the snow can be an intimidating prospect for any driver in such conditions but for some, it can be an overwhelming fear that can be hard to shake off.

Past experiences driving along snow-covered roads and having your vehicle skid uncontrollably can be nerve-wracking, to say the least. A brush with a life-threatening incident can sometimes cause anxiety amongst people pertaining to the activity they were indulged in when it happened. 

Losing a Loved One in a Road Accident due to Bad Weather Conditions

It’s also possible that the person suffering from the fear of winter driving has lost a loved one in a related accident making them that much more terrified of being behind the wheel in similar conditions. 

Unfamiliarity with Winter Conditions

Regardless of the fact that you don’t have a general fear of driving, not knowing about the snowy condition of the road you are about to drive through is a scary thought on its own.

If you have recently moved from a warm-weather area to a place famous for its winter storms, it can be daunting to learn all that you need to know about winter driving. When to use snow tires or chains? How to measure distances? How to steer out of a sudden skid? These are but some of the things one has to be aware of when driving in snow. Not knowing these things can be dangerous not just for you but also for those around you and such doubts can often well up, leading to a build of fear, anxiety, or stress when driving.

Overcoming the Fear of Driving in the Snow

Now that we are familiar with the cause of this fear, let’s move on to the tips and tricks to overcoming it. The basic rule of overcoming any fear is facing it. However, this type of fear doesn’t just go away by merely facing it. You have to know the ways and hone the skills necessary to prevent yourself from getting into trouble when your car loses control on icy conditions. The following are a few ways you can manage your fear and be more in control of your vehicle.

Slow Down

The first and foremost thing to know about is black ice. Black ice is by far the leading cause of road accidents in the winter. This thin layer of transparent ice is near invisible on the road and extremely slippery. When driving on black ice your vehicle will have little to no traction, allowing very little control, which, while steering, is a feeling that can be quite terrifying.

When you spot black ice on the road, slow down immediately. Frequently test your vehicle’s brakes by pressing lightly on them at regular intervals. Check their reaction and the grip of your tires as you press on. This gives you a clear picture of the driving surface ahead so you won’t be taken by surprise.

Focus on the Direction You Want Your Vehicle to be Facing

Driving on a snowy path can often take away the control of your vehicle. It’s possible that you lose control of your vehicle and it seems difficult to resume your initial direction. When that happens, remember to stay focused on the direction you want to go, rather than avoiding the obstacle you are faced with.

Slow down, take your foot off the accelerator, go easy on the steering wheel and don’t wrestle with it. And most importantly, never slam on the brakes. Staying calm and relaxed is the most important thing when driving in snow. Panicking and turning your steering frantically to regain control will only land you in much deeper trouble. Keep every action slow and steady and you can avoid skidding off the road more times than not. 

Prepare Your Vehicle for the Worst

The worse may never come but one should always be prepared for it. The biggest mistake people do before driving in winter is not preparing their vehicle for the possible ordeal. Make sure you put on winter tires and snow chains if needed. Also, ensure your vehicle is in top condition and recently inspected before setting out.

Prepare yourself for the off chance that you are stranded in a snowbank on the side of the road. The whole experience becomes a whole lot easier if you have an emergency kit with you. If you come prepared for this ordeal, the discomfort can be reduced in significant proportions. 

Your emergency kit should contain essentials such as an ice scraper, gloves, shovel, first aid box, battery-operated heater, fuel, and food supplies. 

Stay Behind the Snowplows

Snowplows move slowly and are big enough to shield your view of the road ahead if you are driving behind them. It’s easy to get frustrated and want to overtake the snail-paced snowplow. What you are not factoring in is the possibility that the road ahead of the snowplow is covered with too much snow for your car to possibly handle.

Be tolerant of the snowplow; it’s there to make the road safer for you. And always remember, it’s only safe if you stay behind it and not try to overtake. 

Avoid Tailgating

Driving too closely behind another vehicle is indisputably wrong. Driving rules require you to keep a safe following distance from the proceeding vehicle with a speed that can be controlled if the vehicle ahead stops abruptly in its tracks. 

To be specific, the time difference between the back of the front vehicle and your vehicle should not be less than two seconds. In wet or snowy weather, however, you should increase this time difference to eight seconds or more to avoid the possibility of a collision.

Skidding is not Always Dangerous

When your vehicle begins to skid on snow or ice, you can follow these tips to avoid an accident. 

  • As your car skids, remove your foot from the accelerator. The natural instinct of a driver during a skid is to wrestle back control of the vehicle. But continuing to accelerate while the vehicle is spinning won’t make that happen. Let go of the accelerator and gently tap on the brakes to straighten out the car.
  • Do not slam the brakes at any cost. Softly pump the brakes to trigger the ABS in your car that will help safely lock your car’s brakes. 
  • Steer to the opposite side of the skid to neutralize your vehicle’s orientation.
  • Go easy on the steering. If you oversteer your car, you might make it spin more violently. Try to stay relaxed and calmly steer your vehicle in the opposite direction of the skid.

Take Someone With You

The thought of having someone by your side sometimes lessens the fear of driving through tricky weather conditions. If you are afraid of getting into an accident when you drive in snow, take someone with you to help ease the experience. 

The knowledge that if you get in trouble, you won’t be stranded alone can be a calming thought. While this might not sound like a viable solution for tackling this fear, it’s a remedy that can avoid crippling your ability to drive during winters. 

Face the Fear

Much like handling most fears and anxieties, the most effective course of action to overcome the fear of winter driving is acceptance. Understand that it is human nature to avoid the emotions that scare us. If driving in the snow scares you, you’ll try and avoid doing it altogether. 

Some might say that if driving during winter or snowing weather conditions is this frightful, then it’s best to avoid the activity since it can pose a risk of harming yourself. But avoidance of fear will not make the fear go away. It will only make you its hostage. 

The good news is that once you decide to face the fear of winter driving, it will lose its ability to rule over you and dictate your actions, or inactions thereof.

Breathing is Key

When you are driving through a snowy road and feel like you are being gripped by the intense feeling of impending danger, pull over immediately, draw a deep long breath, and exhale through your mouth. 

Watch your breath as you inhale and exhale it and feel the tension leaving your body. Repeat the exercise for 10 to 20 minutes and then resume driving. 

Deep breathing brings your focus from the feelings of intense fear to the present moment in which you are safe and unharmed. As the mind realizes that there is no present fear, it relaxes and your muscles ease up too. 

Conclusion

Fear of winter driving is real and undeniable. It’s a rational fear and it can be quite crippling if not handled effectively. If you bring all the above-discussed ways into practice, you stand the chance of overcoming your fears and becoming a better more confident driver.

In some extreme cases, it might even be beneficial to seek the help of a therapist that can help you get to the root cause of your fears and then work with you in overcoming them. 

Dealing with anxieties and facing your fears can seem like a cumbersome process. Have confidence in yourself that you will defeat your fears and regain control of your mind. Such positivity is essential to keep you motivated. With a bit of hope, effort, and patience, you too can conquer your fear of driving in snow and be able to enjoy the winter driving experience in an altogether different light.