Thanks to this year’s ruthless winter, many areas of the USA have already experienced snow. Even places like Florida saw snowfall! While some drivers in northern states may be used to driving in the snow, it’s apparent that drivers living elsewhere could definitely use a lesson in driving in the snow. Even if you are familiar with driving in the snow, it’s smart to review these for driving safely in the snow.
You can never be too careful when it comes to driving in the snow. Did you know that, annually, over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement? To avoid becoming a statistic, it’s imperative you understand the dangers of driving in the snow and take the right precautions to ensure you’re driving safely on snowy roads.
10 Tips for Driving in the Snow That Can Save Your Life
Knowledge is power, so don’t brush off these driving tips if you want to safely navigate snowy and icy roads. While driving in the snow and other dangerous conditions, we do recommend having a dash cam setup on your dashboard. This way, if you do happen to get into an accident, you will have documentation. But it’s better to be safe than sorry, so brush up on the below tips for driving safely in the snow, and hopefully you will not get into an accident.
Tip #1: Keep your gas tank full.
When the weather outside is frightful, you’re forced to think about many other possible issues. Case in point: your fuel tank freezing. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, make sure your gas tank is always at least half-full when heading out on snowy roads. In addition to keeping the tank from freezing, having ample fuel in your car at all times is smart if you do get stuck somewhere. If you get stuck in a snowbank and need to wait for help, having gas in your car will be paramount to keeping the heat going and making sure you do not freeze. For extra safety, you can keep an extra half-tank of gas in your car at all times for emergency situations.
Tip #2: Use snow tires and make sure they’re well-inflated.
While some people think having all-wheel drive is the most important car feature for the snow, the true hero is snow tires. These have increased tread for these low-traction situations, giving you better control of the car. But you’ve got to do more than just have snow tires—you need to make sure they are inflated as well. If your tires are not up to their proper inflation specifications, you will lose a lot of that traction you were aiming for. Remember that lower temperatures decrease the pressure in your tires and you may need to give them an inspection before heading out on snowy roads.
Tip #3: Slow it down.
If you’re not sure how to drive in the snow, the first thing to remember is that everything completely slows down in icy and snowy conditions. Not only do you need to lower your speed, but you will want to also slow down your hands and legs while operating the vehicle. This is because your tires will take longer to establish traction, so you do not want to take any turns or stops too fast. Turn the wheel slowly and carefully, and start slowing down at stoplights way earlier than you are used to. Always assume that there is a chance you could slide forward or off the road. Never brake or accelerate too sharply—gradual is best.
Tip #4: Increase the distance between cars.
Much like our advice for driving in the rain, it is smart to apply the same distance rule to your snowy driving. As mentioned above, you should carefully consider the possibility that you could slide forward at any time, so it is smart to leave a large amount of space between you and the car ahead of you. This not only grants you more room to react to traffic, but it also helps the cars behind you do the same. Nobody wants to be part of a six-car pile-up, so keep your distance. AAA recommends increasing that distance up to eight to 10 seconds.
Tip #5: Turn into your slide.
Sometimes, no matter how great your snow wheels are and how careful you are operating the vehicle, you might still start spinning out. It can be scary, but it is important that you remain calm in this situation. You can still regain control. Instead of reacting by turning the wheel the opposite way that you’re sliding, you need to turn into it. It may feel unnatural to turn into your slide, but it’s the smart thing to do. If you start sliding, deliberately turn the wheel just a half a crank in the same direction you are sliding. Gently brake while this is happening—if your car isn’t too old, your stability system should do a pretty good job straightening you out. Then, once you stop, your steering wheel shouldn’t be turned too far from straight ahead, so you can slowly begin to accelerate forward again. If you want to practice this maneuver, these are the best places to practice driving.
Tip #6: Look ahead.
Because everything slows down when you’re driving in the snow, you need to be more careful and alert. That means looking farther ahead on the road than usual so you can adequately predict anything. Maybe there’s a stopped car ahead or a stretch of road that looks particularly shiny (icy)—it’s best to know about these little hang-ups well in advance before you approach them to avoid freaking out in the moment. If you don’t have the foresight, you risk slamming on your brakes and sliding out or hitting another car.
Tip #7: Don’t cruise.
Cruise control is convenient for long, highway-bound trips, but not when the roads are slippery. So that means if the roads are wet, icy, or snowy, don’t turn on your cruise control. You want to have full control of your speed when trying to drive safely on snowy roads, and cruise control, ironically, does not give you that control. In the snow, you will be laying off the gas a lot and going much slower, so cruise control is no necessary.
Tip #8: Treat hills with caution.
Hills are tricky in the snow. You don’t want to accelerate too fast going up a hill because if your tires can’t get enough traction, they will just start spinning in the snow. To safely ascend a hill in snowy conditions, give the car just enough gas until it gains some intertia. That inertia should bring you to the top of the hill without over-powering it. Then, once you get to the top of the hill, reduce your speed, and proceed down as slowly as you can without slamming on the brakes. Additionally, you never want to stop while going up an icy hill—you can slide backwards and cause big problems. Just build inertia while on a flat road before ascending a hill.
Tip #9: Keep it rolling.
Even coming to a full stop anywhere on the road becomes an issue when driving in the snow. If you can keep your wheels slowly moving while braking for a stoplight, do it. You want to avoid full stops as much as possible because of how much inertia it requires to get your car moving again from a full stop. You have more of a risk of getting stuck when you try to accelerate from a full stop.
Tip #10: Drive sparingly.
Driving in the snow is quite obviously not ideal and it poses a lot of possibility for danger. If you don’t need to leave the house, don’t. Driving in the snow should be done so sparingly to decrease your risks, especially if you are not familiar or confident with your snowy driving abilities. Even if you are used to driving in snowy conditions, remember that not everyone else is guaranteed to be a pro, so even just being on the roads still poses a threat to you. If you don’t have somewhere to be, just enjoy the snow from the safety of your home.