Winter Road Safety: Tips for Ice, Snow, and Cold Weather Driving

16 January 2023

Winter driving can be a dangerous time of year for drivers. Cold temperatures, poor visibility and icy roads can make even the shortest drive unpredictable. Knowing how to properly prepare your vehicle for cold weather and navigating adverse conditions can help reduce the risks of accidents. With your safety in mind, we wanted to share some of the best ways to prepare your car for the cold and tips to drive safely in the winter.

What Do I Need to Do to My Car for Winter?

Servicing and maintaining your car for winter is an important step to safe winter driving. Here are a few things to check:

  • Tire tread. The “penny test” is a good way of gauging if your tires have a safe amount of tread. Place a penny in your tire’s groove. You shouldn’t see Lincoln’s head. If you can see his entire head, it’s probably time for new tires.
  • Tire air pressure. Temperature drops cause the air in your tire to condense, which in turn lowers your PSI.
  • Fluids. It’s best to keep up with regular oil changes and fluid flushes. For winter, top off any fluids like motor oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid, and wiper fluid. There are many wiper fluids on the market that can withstand low temperatures that will be good for cold weather use.
  • Heater. The last thing you want is to be stranded in a vehicle without heat!
  • Wipers. Blades with cracked rubber, damaged frame, leaving streaks or making a loud squeaking noise may need to be replaced.
  • Defroster. You already have wintry weather to deal with. You don’t need the stress of foggy windows impeding your visibility.

Many repair facilities offer winterizing services where they will ensure your car is ready for the road. Get a tune-up and perform any other routine maintenance.

11 Tips for Driving in The Snow, Ice, and Cold Weather

  1. Practice. If you’re new to winter driving, practice driving in some place where there isn’t a lot of traffic. Side streets and parking lots can be a good place to get comfortable with snow, ice, and wet conditions. When you’re ready, you can drive main roads and in areas of higher traffic.
  2. Accelerate and drive slowly. Stopping and controlling your car is harder in the wintry conditions. Flooring it from a full stop is dangerous any time of year but especially in winter. You can easily slide or spinout. Accelerate and drive at a slower rate to give you better handling and help prevent sliding.
  3. Keep your gas tank at least half full. If you become stranded, you need to have the fuel to keep you and your car warm. Being stranded without heat can become very dangerous.
  4. Increase your following distance. The 3-second rule is good when driving conditions are ideal. For snowy or inclement weather, increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Keep in mind that snowplow drivers may not see you, so keep plenty of distance between them and you.
  5. Forget cruise control. With ice and snow, you will need to change your speed often. If you see an upcoming snow drift on the road, you’ll want to begin slowing down long before you arrive to it. It’s best to skip cruise control so you have easier control of your speed.
  6. Don’t travel in bad weather. Use public transportation if available. If you absolutely must drive, alter your travel route if needed to avoid known closures or other dangerous conditions.
  7. Black ice can be tricky to notice. It’s transparent but, with the right lighting, you can see it. If a part of the road looks a bit darker in color and duller, it could be black ice.
  8. Give yourself extra travel time. Check the forecast and any travel reports to give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination. When driving in bad weather, the last thing you need is the added stress of being late.
  9. Don’t engage with dangerous drivers. People will pass you, honk, follow too closely and exhibit other aggressive or dangerous behavior. It’s best to ignore their aggressive advances or call local authorities for help, when necessary.
  10. Know what to do if you have an accident. Car accidents happen. It’s good to review what to do if you get in a car accident in the winter so if it does happen, you’re prepared to handle it.
  11. Keep a winter emergency kit in your vehicle. Some items you’ll want include jumper cables, reflectors, extra windshield wiper fluid, an ice scraper, something to create traction (like sand), blankets or other items to keep warm, a first aid kit, non-perishable food, and a cell phone charger.

What Do I Do If My Car Slides on Ice, Snow, or Other Slick Spots?

Sliding is bound to happen at least once in your life. Feeling your car go out of your control can be scary—but there is no need to panic! In fact, you’ll want to remain as calm as possible as you work to gain control of your vehicle.

  1. Immediately take your foot off the gas.
  2. Do not hit the brakes. Your instinct may be to brake but this will make your slide worse.
  3. Steer into the skid. If the back of your vehicle starts to fishtail, gently turn your steering wheel in the direction of the fishtail. For example, if the back end goes left, turn your steering wheel left. This may cause the back end to go right, so now turn your steering wheel right. This is called “steer into the skid” and it’s an effective way to stop a fishtail or spin.

Driving in the winter can be a challenge. Check your vehicle’s condition and keep your eye out for adverse conditions. Give our licensed agents a call today at 844-358-5605 or send us a message to get auto insurance coverage that protects you no matter the weather.

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