There was only about an inch of snow that had fallen, but it
was the first snowfall in the New York City Tri-State area in December
2004, and it wreaked havoc with the highways on a Monday morning.
Among the many accidents, there was a report of a Ford Explorer that
had run off the Long Island Expressway and plowed into a wall.
The driver was pretty shook up, but he was otherwise OK. The
reporter asked him how it happened. His answer: "I guess there
was some ice. I don't really know what happened..."
These are typical stories for the first snowfall of the season. Every winter, we face the real possibility of getting into a car accident due to inclement weather. More than any other season, we are at the highest risk in the winter. Ironically, some BMW owners still believe the hype that "BMWs are bad in the snow" and store their beloved cars in their garage until springtime. Others drive their cars, with their all-season tires, holding onto their steering wheel with a nervous death-grip, praying for the springtime. They are thankful for such computers like ABS, DSC+T, and ASC, all working in concert to keep us going in the right direction. With such inadequate tires, the computers are working overtime to maintain our BMWs' stability, cutting power to the engine and applying brakes more efficiently than our human brains can possibly manage. But the computers can only do so much. The rest is up to us and our tires.
And don't be fooled into thinking that SUVs are better in the
cars. Driving your 3, 5, or 7-series (M-cars not included) in the
winter allows you to take full advantage of that nearly perfect 50-50
weight distribution and low center of gravity. When you put snow
tires on a car with these characteristics, you create a car that can
get through virtually any snow, and that car will be balanced enough to
stop safely and competently, which is a life-saving characteristic no
SUVs can share.
Those of us that aren't satisfied to read the Roundel and watch the
Speed Channel all winter long can race our BMWs on frozen lakes
instead. There are plenty of venues within a few hours of New
York City, not much further than places like Lime Rock or Summit Point,
but they're all north of the city, of course. And you'll be
surprised at how much car-control you will learn while having fun
maintaining your racing skills over the winter months.
And finally, just a tip about how to hold the steering wheel when driving in snow and ice: Hold it with both hands, but don't hold it with a death-grip. Hold it with enough dexterity to keep your fingers in contact with the steering wheel, but not too tightly. This way, you will not be inclined to make abrupt steering changes that can disrupt the stability of the car. You will be better able to anticipate when the road becomes icy and the car starts to slip; it will help you maneuver through these conditions without overreacting. Good luck and safe driving!
[* I am not a crook. I am not a vendor or seller of tires or automotive parts; I do not benefit financially whether you buy snow tires or not; at the time of this article being written, I am not currently a member of the NYBMWCCA Board and do not get a kickback if you buy Nokian Tires; I am not running for any elected position. I am not running from anyone either; I am not beholden to anyone or any organization. I buy my Nokian tires from Pat Greer of Greer Enterprises outside Milwaukee, Wisconsin (+1 800 325 2598) and he's always been great to deal with!]