The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is to avoid it, if possible. Since that’s not always an option, it’s important be prepared.
Wait for the snow plow
If you absolutely must leave the house, at least give the snow plows and sand crews a chance to make the roads more drivable.
Make your car winter-ready
Properly preparing your car for snowy conditions is half the battle.
Get traction. There are high-performance summer tires, all-season tires and winter snow tires (aka winter tires). If you live in an area with wintry roads, then snow tires are a good investment. Look for the snowflake on the mountain symbol — it means the tires meet an industry standard for snow traction.
Ensure good visibility. Keep the interior of your windshield clean and streak-free and pay close attention to your ice-prone outer windshield. Replace windshield wiper blades and add anti-icing fluid to your windshield washer system. Make sure your headlights and taillights are snow-free.
Know your brakes. The way you respond to slippery, snowy conditions depends on whether or not your car is equipped with an anti-lock brake system (ABS). Find out if your car has ABS before you take to the roads.
Look for dangerous road conditions. Bridges freeze early, intersections are full of traffic also trying to navigate touchy roads and black ice can creep up anywhere. Oftentimes, you won’t know there’s black ice until you’ve hit it. Approach every puddle or glazed surface with caution.
Be on high alert. Wintry roads can turn your vehicle into a dangerous weapon.
- Keep both hands on the wheel and keep distractions at bay.
- Don’t speed and don’t accelerate suddenly.
- Brake before — not during — a turn.
- Maintain a larger-than-usual distance between your car and the car in front of you.
- Choose the lanes with the least amount of slush and snow.
What to do when things go wrong
Don’t pump. If your wheels lock and you start to slide, release the brake pedal to recover traction and then slowly apply the brake again. Regardless of what braking system your vehicle has, your response to slick spots must always be to get as much traction as possible between your tires and the road.
Don’t oversteer. You may have been told to “steer into the spin” when your car loses control, but the correct response to spinning is to maintain control of the steering wheel. Make no sudden movements.
Don’t rely on technology. Electronic stability control (ESC) and all-wheel drive (AWD) do not provide crash protection. While ESC can prevent spinning, it cannot improve traction, and AWD doesn’t make driving safer — it simply helps you get moving again when you’re stuck.
Download a safe-driving app
Check out iOnRoad, an award-winning smartphone app that improves driving in real time. The app uses your Android or iPhone’s camera and sensors to provide a range of personal driving-assistance functions, including augmented driving, collision warning and video recording. It’s like having a “black box” for your car.