During school snow days, Vt. students still get drivers-ed lessons

Vermont winters are long and knowing how to drive in them is imperative.
Published: Dec. 26, 2022 at 6:11 AM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont winters are long, and knowing how to drive in them is imperative. So it’s important for young drivers to get experience navigating snowy roads.

Dudley’s Driving Academy is operated by Paul Dudley. He’s taught hundreds of students how to get behind the wheel in Chittenden and Washington county schools over the past 10 years.

While school was out for a snow day, Renzo Pizzagalli was getting a lesson behind the wheel in an impromptu drivers-ed class.

“I’ve never driven in snow. So to get a little bit of experience,” said Pizzagalli.

Dudley said this is the perfect time to get winter driving experience.

“Weather doesn’t care how much experience a driver has, so we have to lean into that because they’re going to wind up driving in bad weather. Days like today, I prefer to take advantage of,” said Dudley.

A big focus of the lesson is understanding brakes in the snow and ice.

“What it feels like when the car is sliding a little bit and skidding a little bit. And then moreover, how to read the road. Like how to anticipate where the grip is best, where it’s worst, what it sounds like, what it feels like,” said Dudley.

Dudley had Pizagalli speed up and stop short in a safe location, so he could understand how much distance he needs when braking and managing traction.

“A lot sketchier conditions. So less grip; you just got to be more careful,” said Pizzagalli.

After they got acquainted with the brakes, the duo hit the roads of South Burlington to get some real-life experience.

Dudley said it’s good when new drivers land in the sweet spot between overconfidence and underconfidence. He said the most common mistakes new drivers make when it comes to winter driving include not having snow tires and getting distracted, and noted that narrow winter roads don’t mix well with cellphones.

“When it is close to freezing, driving in the tracks other people have created is important but when it gets really, really, really cold, sometimes that’s icier and driving in a little bit of snow is better than driving in the tracks other people have packed down,” Dudley explained.

Dudley said snow day drivers ed usually happens six to eight times a year depending on Mother Nature, but he says the more safe practice in the snow, the better.

“The vehicle technology tends to be getting a bit better and better. But at the end of the day, we’re still under the thumb of physics,” Dudley said.