Working on winter driving skills - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Working on winter driving skills

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

We're expecting the first major snowstorm of the season later this week.  It'll be the first big snow to hit Iowa in quite some time.  Last winter, the Cedar Valley had only three snow events with more than four inches, and none of those snows carried severe wind gusts like we're expecting for the upcoming storm.

Some roads are already icing up a bit.  Of course, it's important to drive slowly on snow and ice-covered roads.  Now, there's a new driving tool in the Cedar Valley that can help you be winter road ready.

"We can come out here on a 75 degree day and we can teach you how to drive on black ice," said Alan Clausman, Hawkeye Community College driving instructor.

That's possible using a car called the "Skid Monster".  The simulator makes for a very realistic experience of driving on slick spots.

"We'll be out here at maybe 15 to 20 miles an hour, going pretty slow, and we will spin out and lose control of it.  But that 15 to 20 miles an hour is in actual life like driving 50 to 60 miles an hour," said Clausman.

That emphasizes why it's so important to drive slow during actual winter weather conditions.

"Don't take any chances out there.  It's just not worth it," Clausman said.

I took a crack at the Skid Monster course -- and on my first run, let's just say the monster got the best of me.

It's an eye-opening experience, and makes you concentrate on the road and how you're driving.  If you feel the car getting away from you--keep driving, and steer into the skid.

"Everybody's first instinct is to hit the brakes.  With the Skid Monster, we don't teach that.  It's evasive.  Move.  Move the steering wheel, turn around, then possibly brake," Clausman said.

It's advice that just might prevent you from spinning out of control in winter weather. 

The upcoming snow event will be one that if you don't have to be out on the roads, it's probably best not to drive.  If you do need to drive, just take it very slow.

You can improve your driving skills with the Skid Monster at Hawkeye Community College.  Driving classes are open to the public.  There are openings right now on January 12th and 19th.  The course is already being utilized by local police departments and driver education courses.  It's hoped the class will eventually be certified as a defensive driving credit, giving students the chance to be eligible for insurance discounts.

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