10 Essential Winter Driving Tips
In ‘ice and snow, take it slow,’ and other advice from experts.
Across much of the U.S., drivers face treacherous winter roads, either as part of the “bomb cyclone,” or normal winter weather conditions. Brushing up on your knowledge of how to navigate these roads will help reduce your likelihood of an accident. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Pay attention to road conditions. Know ahead of time what to expect, and if local authorities advise staying off the roads, take their word for it.
2. Ensure good visibility. Clear all snow and ice from your vehicle before you start driving. Then, turn on your low-beam headlights for the drive.
3. Allow extra time. “Ice and snow, take it slow, or just don’t go,” advises the Indiana Department of Transportation. In addition to needing that extra time for the drive, you’ll need to shovel the driveway and clean off the car before you head out too.
4. Give other vehicles more space. In poor conditions, stay 5 seconds behind the car in front you (up from the normal 2-3 seconds), advises Smart Drive Test, a company that teaches driving.
5. Use gentle movements when accelerating and turning because fast or big movements on snow or ice can lead to skidding. “Start gradually; drive at steady speeds; accelerate slightly when approaching a hill, then maintain a steady speed going up; and gear down on downgrades,” advises the Colorado Department of Transportation (DOT). Also, don’t use cruise control when it’s slippery out.
6. Allow enough room to stop. It takes a longer length road to stop on snowy/icy roads, so brake early and then creep up to the stoplight, advises Smart Drive Test. Use extreme caution at busy intersections, as the traffic causes snow to melt, leaving a slick layer of water on top of the ice/snow.
7. Know that even four-wheel drive requires you to apply these tips. An SUV with 4WD still can lose traction, just like any vehicle. Also, although 4WD and all-wheel drive can get you going faster on poor roads, both require extra time to stop, warns Indiana DOT.
8. If you start skidding, remove your foot from the accelerator or brake. Then steer in the direction of the skid. Once steady, straighten the wheel and proceed.
9. Understand the physics of slick roads. Bridges, underpasses, shadowed areas and roads near water all freeze first, according to Smart Drive Test. Also, temps near freezing (36°F), result in slicker roads than temps below 0°F because at near freezing, water sits on the ice, like a Zamboni that floods an ice skating rink, leaving the water layer much slicker than the ice underneath.
10. Use caution around snowplows. Don’t tailgate a snowplow. Try not to pass. If you must pass, beware of the snow cloud – and never pass a snowplow on the right, advises Indiana DOT.
In addition to using these 10 tips to drive
better this winter, you’ll also want to get your car winter ready. Consider
these ideas from Brewster
Fill up the
windshield washer reservoir and replace your wiper blades if necessary. Check
the air pressure in your tires (which goes down in cold weather) and keep them
set at the pressure designated inside the car door (not what’s on the tires). Keep your tank at least half full to prevent gas line
freezing. Consider installing winter tires, as these contain special treads for
snowy conditions. Also, pack a winter safety kit to keep in your vehicle.
This winter on slick roads, remember, use the brakes lightly, go gentle
when steering and accelerating, steer in the direction of a skid and, above all
else, don’t rush – it’s going to take longer to get to your destination. All of
these tips together should help you reduce the likelihood car accidents this
winter, even when facing down the bomb cyclone or polar vortex.