Safe Driving Tips After Snow & Ice

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Winter snow, rain, and black ice can lead to hazardous road conditions that make driving a far more nerve-wracking and perilous affair. This is especially true for people not used to driving in such conditions. Although you should always drive carefully, driving in the winter demands that you take extra precautions.

If you live where it snows or plan on traveling to the mountains, it’s critical that you prepare for snow and ice by winterizing your vehicle and altering your driving habits. Below, we will discuss some tips to navigate the winter roads safely.

Safe Driving Tips After Snow & Ice

  • Check your conditions.
    Before you ever leave your house, you should have a thorough understanding of weather conditions, potential road closures, major pileups, or hazards. Pay attention to city or town warnings or reports. If they announce that vehicles should not be driving, heed that warning. There are heavy snow conditions that even the best of winter vehicles simply cannot operate in, where even trucks with snow tires and chains wind up stuck in a snowbank or on the side of the road.
  • Keep supplies in your car.
    When going out in the snow, be prepared for the worst-case scenario, like your vehicle getting stuck or stranded. To ensure your safety, you should keep supplies for potential emergencies as well as tools to free your vehicle if it is to get stuck. Necessities include:
    • A shovel.
    • An ice scraper for the windows.
    • Salt, sand, or gravel to put beneath the tires to help them gain traction.
    • Blankets and cold weather gear.
    • Cell phone charger.
    • Food.
    • Water.
    • Flares or emergency markers.
    • Chains, if allowed in your state.
  • Do not rush.
    Just because you can safely drive 70 MPH in the summer does not mean that you can safely do so in the winter. In fact, even going half of the speed limit in icy or snowy conditions can still be too fast. Wherever you are going, do not hurry. If that means leaving early for work or a trip, then do so. Speeding over snowy or icy roads is a recipe for disaster. Drive smoothly and avoid jerky movements, which can unstick the rubber tires from their already tenuous grip of the road and even cause potential damage to your vehicle.
  • Leave space.
    Similar to speeding, you simply cannot drive as close to other drivers in snowy or icy conditions. Tailgating nearly guarantees that you will end up in a fender bender the moment the driver in front of you taps on the brakes. Stopping in snow or ice is not nearly as simple or as quick as stopping on dry pavement. If you want to drive safely, you should leave plenty of car lengths ahead of you, especially on hills. That way if you must stop and wind up sliding, you are less likely to cause an accident.
  • Know your brakes and how to use them.
    Know whether or not your brake system has an antilock prevention system. The way you brake will change for either:
    • Antilock brakesApply firm and constant pressure on the brake pedal.
    • Locking brakesPump the brake pedal if you try to brake and your wheels lock up.

    With both systems, it is important to remember that if you do have to stop suddenly, do not panic and avoid stabbing the brakes. Just ease up on the gas and gradually brake. Not only will this help protect you, but also your car, since strong braking is on a list of bad driving habits that can damage your car.

  • Winter tires.
    If you live in a place where it snows regularly, snow tires are an absolute necessity. Although they may cost more than your regular tires, their design gives them infinitely more grip and traction in snowy or icy conditions. People who have snow tires in California often do not even need chains since the tires suffice. If you are in California to visit Tahoe, Mammoth, or Big Bear and there are snowy conditions, you are legally required to have chains on your vehicle unless you have snow tires or 4-wheel drive. Regardless of your tire situation, chains provide an extra means of traction and safety that rubber on snow or ice simply cannot match.
  • Prepare for a skid.
    If you drive in the snow regularly, you will eventually hit a patch of black ice or snow that causes your vehicle to skid. While this can be terrifying in the moment, it’s critical that you react calmly and manage the skid without panicking.
    • Front-wheel skid.
      If the front tires lose grip and the car begins to turn in a wide arc, let off the gas and keep the wheel steady. In a second or two, they should regain traction.
    • Rear-wheel skid.
      If you encounter a rear tire skid, your vehicle may begin to spin out. In such cases, embrace the spin and turn your wheel in the same direction as the slide while keeping your foot off the brake and accelerator. Although it may seem counter-intuitive, continue to wait until the wheels once more find traction.

A Final Word

Driving in winter conditions takes more precaution, knowledge, and focus at all times of day, whether you’re trying to drive safely at night or during the day. Implement these tips into your driving lifestyle to ensure the safety of yourself, your passengers, and your motoring neighbors.

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