PRNDL—Park, Reverse, Neutral, Drive and Low. Some gearshifts will have L, 2, 1, or 2, 1, etc after D. Most automatic cars have two or three options after Drive. Do you know what these positions are for? Have you used them? Do you know when to use them? The answer is in your owner's manual but here is a (very) brief explanation.
There's a close relationship between your car's power and speed. Generally, more power means less speed and vice versa. Let's say your car's gearshift has PRND21. When you shift into 2, you'll get more power but remember that you'll have less speed. It's useful when you're towing, driving on hilly roads or driving in deep snow/mud. Some transmissions will stay locked in second gear while others will automatically shift out of that gear when you reach a certain speed to prevent damage. Either way, you're controlling the transmission more so than when you simply put it into Drive. When you manually select 1, you're getting even more power but the vehicle will be moving slower. Also keep in mind that fuel economy is much less in these lower modes compared to 'D'.
Don't drive the vehicle in these selected positions beyond their speed range. For example, our 2004 Toyota Corolla has a speed range of up to 118km/hr in 2 and up to 65km/hr in L. Going beyond the speed range will increase the chance of damaging the vehicle, and/or overheating the transmission fluid. If you find yourself going beyond those ranges, it's time to shift into a higher gear (or 'D' if applicable).
These manual options serve a good purpose when used for the correct situation (driving on steep hills, in extreme weather conditions, etc). Before you start selecting these options, it's very important that you read your owner's manual. It will give you specific information on when and how to use them as well as what the speed ranges are.
Image via Honda Canada (2013 Civic)
Earlier this year, Michael Small reported on Canada's most dangerous intersections based on information he gathered from national and provincial accident statistics between 2002 and 2004. According to his findings, 30% of vehicle deaths and more than 40% of serious vehicle injuries occurred at intersections. Furthermore, Small indicated that over 20% of intersection deaths and serious injuries happen between the rush hours of 3pm and 6pm. Yikes!
I love driving in snow. For me, it's fun! A few weeks ago we got one of the worst snowstorms since 2008 and I was driving my son home from school. When our car got stuck, no problem. Using some techniques I learned from my dad, we got out in no time.
Winter driving brings back memories of driving with my dad. Having lived in Quebec for many years, he's driven through his fair share of snowstorms... and you haven't seen snow until you've seen Quebec snow. Needless to say, my dad knew how to handle his car when it came to driving through the relatively milder Ontario winter season.
When I was a kid sitting in his car, I would feel it slipping and saw what he did to maintain control. He was never nervous, always calm. If the car got stuck in the snow, he showed me how to 'rock' the car and manoeuvre his way out. In fact, he had fun driving in the snow too. I definitely got my winter driving perspective from him and I hope to pass that attitude onto my sons too.
Confidence in winter driving comes with experience. If you're not familiar with how your car handles when it's slipping and sliding, it's natural to feel nervous on the road. Consider taking winter driving courses. In the Greater Toronto Area, Sweetie Girl Racing offers winter driving clinics. If you're not in the GTA, search the web for a local driving company that offers similar programs. During these clinics, you get to experience in a safe environment what your car feels like with low traction and you practice how to maintain control of the car. If you have a new driver in your family, why not bring them with? It's a great way to spend some quality time and develop practical driving skills.
When you're driving with kids in the car they are watching how you react and how you handle the road. They're learning about driving way before they write their driver's license test. One of the best things you can demonstrate to these future drivers is that winter driving's really no big deal!