Driving safely in winter weather can be a challenge for even the most experienced drivers. Of course, the best advice is to avoid driving in hazardous conditions altogether. However, since that may not always be an option, we urge you to exercise caution and follow these 10 tactics to help keep you and others on the road safe.
- Clear Your Car: If you need to head out, remove all snow and ice from your car’s exterior. Skip this step and clumps could blow off your car while you drive, obstructing your view and that of other drivers. First, clear off your vehicle’s roof, then the windows, and, finally, brush off the front hood and trunk. In some states, it’s the law.
- Slow Down: We can’t urge this simple tactic enough. Reducing your speed and allowing extra time for your trip will keep you safe and reduce stress during your trip.
- Brake Lightly: To avoid skidding or having your brakes lock up when stopping or slowing your vehicle, apply light pressure to the brakes. Also leave plenty of space between you and the car in front—we recommend nearly three times the normal space you would leave in dry conditions.
- Clear Vision: Make sure all windows and mirrors are clean and clear. Visibility is essential when driving in dangerous conditions. Also make sure your car has plenty of washer fluid and your wiper blades are functioning properly.
- Don’t Be Fooled: Your car may have all-wheel drive (AWD) or electronic stability control (ESC), but these technological advances do not mean your car is impervious to spin outs or skids. Do not be lulled into a false sense of security. You are still vulnerable to the same hazards as all other drivers.
- Stay Calm: Make sure to avoid any sudden adjustments to your driving style, including braking, accelerating, or grabbing the wheel. Your car has only so much grip on the road, and these movements make that grip more difficult. A steady, even pace with smooth movements will help keep you safe.
- No Cruising: Avoid using your cruise control settings during poor conditions. Doing so while driving on snowy or icy roads can affect the system’s ability to maintain a constant vehicle speed. On wet roads, cruise control set at too fast a speed could make your vehicle hydroplane.
- Be a Light Foot: In slippery conditions, accelerate slowly to avoid rear wheel spin when starting from a fixed position. If you do feel your wheels spinning and searching for traction, DO NOT press down harder on the accelerator. Instead, gently back off the gas, wait for the wheel to find grip, and then gently reapply to begin moving forward.
- Stay Focused: This goes without saying, but is especially important during hazardous conditions. Remember that “black ice” may appear as a puddle or simply look like wet or a darker patch of asphalt.
- Don’t Panic In A Skid: If you find your car in a slide or skid, DO NOT slam on the brakes or quickly jerk the wheel. Instead, reduce your acceleration and place the car into neutral. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and create traction. Once traction has returned, point the wheels in the desired direction, return the automobile to drive, and accelerate gently.
Again, we highly recommend staying off the roads during hazardous driving situations. If you must go out, leave plenty of extra time, exercise caution, and bring plenty of patience. And before you head out, make sure your car is winter ready.