If you go out in the snow each year and are thinking to yourself, “Did everyone forget how to drive?” you’re not alone. Plenty of people wonder why drivers seem to be so out of control once snow falls, even if there isn’t much or any on the roads.
While it seems odd to think about, a UW-Whitewater psychology professor suggests that people very well may have forgotten how to drive in snow. Psychologically, people have to learn to control their driving and adapt to winter driving each year.
He suggests that while the streets are dry, the brain knows how to control your vehicle under most circumstances and while following the speed limit. Unfortunately, ice and snow create new, sometimes unknown hazards, which change the sensory-motor dynamics in the brain. Essentially, your brain needs to relearn how to drive considering the new winter-weather dynamics at play.
Winter weather requires quick changes in driving behaviors
Winter weather does come on quickly. As a result, drivers need to adapt rapidly. Sometimes, the brain simply cannot relearn how to drive on snow and ice that quickly, which is why you get people who seem to be driving recklessly.
Another reason for a learning lag may be due to how newer vehicles are built. Since they have quieter cabins and are warmer, driving becomes more comfortable. That means, though, that there is a potential that the brain may not adapt quickly. The brain won’t recognize the crunching sound of ice or the slushy sound of sleet and snow under the tires.
How can people make themselves safer as they adjust to new conditions?
The way to stay safer is to retrain your brain before you go out on a major trip. Test the conditions, listen to the weather station and get an idea of how the conditions affect your vehicle. Try your brakes to see if you have traction. Then, your brain will be better able to adapt knowing the speeds at which you’ll be safe to travel keeping stopping distances in mind.
Winter driving may lead to crashes. If you do end up in a car crash with someone who seems not to have remembered how to drive correctly on ice or snow, you may be able to seek compensation.