Winter Weather Driving Tips

How To Drive Safely During The Winter

traffic driving on snow covered highwayFrom the driveway to the highway, getting your car unstuck and back on the road can be a pain. Unless you've already traded in your car for a snowmobile, you should be prepared for whatever the season throws at you (or piles on top of you).

First, make sure your car is winterized and ready for battle. Then follow these tips to make your trek into the winter wonderland a safe one.

Protect Your Windshield

  • The cardinal rule for de-icing your windows? Hot water is a no-no, unless you like that shattered glass look.
  • To begin, start your car and turn on the front and rear defrosters to help soften the ice and snow. It will also help warm up your car while you work.
  • When you're ready to begin scraping the ice, opt for a plastic ice scraper. Plastic scrapers are less likely to damage or scratch the surface of the glass.
  • Your wipers weren't made for heavy lifting. Use them only after you've completely cleared off the snow and ice from your windshield.
  • Make sure your car has plenty of windshield washer fluid before you get out on the slush, salt and sand covered roads.

Shoveling Out Your Car

  • First things want the snow off your car but you probably want to save the paint. Opt for brushes designed for auto snow removal and leave the shovel in the shed.
  • Whatever you do - don't forget the roof! In fact, failing to clean off your car can be illegal. You don't want a block of ice the size of a mattress flying off your car into traffic.
  • Don't forget to brush off your mirrors, head and tail lights and license plates.
  • Carbon monoxide is no laughing matter, so check your tailpipe to be sure it's free of snow whenever your car is running.
  • When you are ready to hit the road, shovel around your wheels and under the front and rear bumpers to clear away any snow. And above all, please be careful out there.

Driving In Snow And Ice

A winterized car is a great start, but it's only part of the safe winter driving equation. Follow these driving tips to keep yourself safe and secure when roads are slippery.

  • Slow Down. In normal conditions, you should maintain a following distance of three seconds between you and another car. On winter roads, increase that to a full 8 to 10 seconds. Yes, that may mean slow going, but a little patience will keep you a lot safer on the road.
  • Get Unstuck the Right Way. Avoid the temptation to spin your wheels. You'll just dig yourself into a deeper hole. Instead, determine the path of least resistance between your car and solid ground. Then, clear the snow behind and in front of all four tires and liberally spread sand or kitty litter in front of and behind the drive wheels. Keep in mind that the sharper your front wheels are turned, the more resistance to movement in either direction you create. Consequently, try to keep the front tires as straight as possible.
  • Tackle a Skid the Smart Way.If your car skids, keep a cool head, and follow these steps:
    • Don't panic.
    • Don't slam on the brakes.
    • Take your foot off the gas.
    • Steer your car in the direction you want to go.
    • Wait for the car to slow down so you can regain control.
    You can prepare for a skid by practicing. Go to an open parking lot and practice braking on icy or snowy surfaces. (Yes, you are allowed to think this is fun.) More importantly, you'll better know how to handle yourself when you skid in traffic.