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Remember the 4 Second Rule

January 8, 2014

When I was a child, I remember my father waving his fist at bad drivers and yelling, “Hey! Where’d you get your license? Sears and Roebuck?”

We’re not even halfway through winter and I’m already resisting the temptation to wave my fist (and perhaps some one fingered salutes) at some truly BAD drivers I’ve encountered on Rt. 49 going in and out of Waterville Valley.  PLEASE, people, slow down, clear your windshields, get off my bumper, and use your directionals!

I learned to drive 40 years ago in rather atrocious northern New Hampshire winter conditions.  I remember my dad accompanying me to an empty high school parking lot on a snowy or icy Saturday or Sunday and teaching me how to handle skids and spins.  He taught me to be prepared for anything by packing my car with scrapers, lock de-icers, cat litter & sand, a mini shovel, chains, windshield washer fluid, blankets, extra clothes, food…we were doomsday preppers way before it became cool.

To this day, I remember my father’s pearls of winter driving wisdom:

  • Allow extra time to reach your destination when driving on slick winter roads.

    Slow down and avoid making sudden moves – no fast turns, no quick acceleration and no hard breaking. If you don’t have time to slow down, when will you have time for an accident?

  • Be aware that bridges and overpasses freeze before road surfaces.

    Freezing air circulating above and below the bridge causes ice to form more rapidly than on a surface that has freezing air above and warmer ground below.

  • Remember that visibility is an important factor for safe driving during a winter storm.

    Keep your lights on and clear the windshield of accumulations of ice and snow if necessary.

  • Allow additional stopping distance on any road that is not dry by doubling the Four-Second Rule.

    When the rear bumper of the car ahead passes any designated spot, make sure you reach the same spot in four seconds or more. Doubling or even tripling this safety measure is especially wise during winter driving, but can be practiced throughout the year.

Image from NHPR. Three people were taken to Concord Hospital this morning after at least nine vehicles were involved in multiple collisions on Interstate 93 in Bow several days ago.

Image from NHPR. Three people were taken to Concord Hospital after at least nine vehicles were involved in multiple collisions on Interstate 93 in Bow several days ago.

About Jan Stearns

I've been living in and loving New Hampshire's White Mountains for most of my life. I moved to Waterville Valley in 1981 and quickly realized why it was dubbed a Yankee Shangri-la. Once you’ve experienced Waterville Valley, you’ll want to call it yours. The great team of Realtors at Waterville Valley Realty can help you find a Waterville Valley home that fits your lifestyle and budget.

2 thoughts on “Remember the 4 Second Rule

  • Andy Knight says:

    Great reminders…. to that I would add, if you drive regularly in snow country, you owe it to yourself to buy four good snow tires. If you go through an online merchant like, you can often get four top-quality snows (I am partial to Bridgestone Blizzaks, but most tire manufacturers offer good options) mounted on four wheels for under $1000. You’ll save money over the life of the tire by buying a separate set of wheels — instead of paying for mounting and balancing every spring and fall, you just do a “tire rotation”.

    If you have never driven on modern snow tires, you will be amazed at the difference they make on any vehicle (front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, or all-wheel-drive). It is important, though, to put snows at all four corners — the difference in traction between summer tires and snows will cause some alarming things to happen if you mix between axles.

    This still holds true if you have an SUV with all-season tires, by the way. As *my* father liked to say, four-wheel drive doesn’t repeal the laws of physics… it makes it easier to get up to speed, but it doesn’t help when you hit the brakes.

    • Jan Stearns says:

      Argh, I forgot that pearl of wisdom! You are absolutely right, Andy. We just bought eight Blizzaks for my daughter’s and daughter-in-law’s cars. One of the best cars I ever drove in the snow was our BMW 320i with four beefy snow tires. That car could drive through the South Pole.

      Love your dad’s wisdom about 4WD, too!

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