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Five Winter Tips for Driving Your Car Safely in Snow and Ice

Updated on February 29, 2020

There are a lot of things that can prevent you from reaching your destination safely while driving in the winter. Every year, tens of thousands of accidents, from major to minor, occur due to careless driving in wintery conditions. Don't let yourself be one of the unfortunate people who experiences injury or vehicle damage because of being unprepared for the season. 

While I do not drive, I consider myself a professional passenger. I'm the kind of passenger who (when I don't fall asleep during the car ride) will do things like open soda bottles for the driver so he/she can keep both hands on the wheel, take care of small distractions like shifting items in the car, changing cds or tuning the radio station, watching for objects in the roadway, etc. The following are my tips for a safer drive in the snow, sleet and/or ice.

From: Indiana Dept. of Transportation (in.gov)
From: Indiana Dept. of Transportation (in.gov)

First, whether you're just driving across town, or driving across the country, always check up on road conditions. There are a number of websites you can check, as well as television channels to keep an eye on, and the information you gain from checking ahead can save you hours of waiting in traffic that is inching along, or can keep you from taking unexpected detours because of emergency road closure. Noting the conditions on the road can also help you to plan a change in route ahead of time - for instance, if there's been a lot of snow and the route you usually take is a back road, try and plan to take major roads and freeways, if only because you'll be travelling through areas that are more likely to be cleared and salted in a timely fashion by the county/city road crews.

Second, make sure your car is in good condition. You wouldn't run a marathon without good running shoes, so why would you try and drive in nasty weather without working windshield wipers, tires in decent condition, plenty of antifreeze and a working heater in your vehicle? Always check your car's liquids (oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid) and make sure the rubber parts are also in top shape. While these factors are minor in the long run, having a check list of items you keep under control means better vehicle performance overall.

Third, if you find yourself skidding, that is – turning in a direction uncontrollably – the old rule was: always turn the wheel slowly so your car moves into the turn, rather than away from where your car is trying to turn in the first place. Professional advice for avoiding skids is two-fold:

  • Slow down! Most skid situations come about because you’re driving too fast.
  • Don’t slam on the brakes! If you hit the brakes, your wheels will try and stop turning, and you will not be able to guide the car anywhere near where you’d like to go.

Modern defensive driving techniques and tips for “skid recovery” can be found at: http://www.roadtripamerica.com/DefensiveDriving/Rule30.htm

The fourth tip for driving safely in inclement weather is to bundle up. This means wear weather-appropriate clothing. In the event that you do have an accident and need to abandon your vehicle, you will become ill and can harm yourself severely if you are out in the snow and ice in a t-shirt and jeans. Your mom is shivering so wear a jacket.

Finally, and another minor detail that could save the life of you or someone you love, your vehicle should have a first aid and emergency kit in it at all times. This is fairly self-explanatory, but here’s a list of items that should be present in a vehicle emergency kit:

  • Flashlight
  • Batteries (for flashlight, and an extra cell phone battery wouldn’t hurt.)
  • Miniature road cones with reflective strip
  • A store bought first aid kit
  • Blanket
  • Jumper cables
  • A quart of oil
  • Duct tape
  • Paper towels
  • Spare fuses
  • Spare headlight bulb
  • Windshield fluid

Feel free to change that list to suit your personal needs, such as if you were hyperglycemic, you’d want to add an energy bar of some sort or even some plain granola or dried fruit to munch on if you’re stuck for long periods of time waiting for assistance. 

Hopefully, by paying attention to these tips and keeping your eye on the road, you’ll be able to make a much safer journey when driving this winter, and every winter. If you have any other tips, please leave them in the comment section below.

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    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 

      8 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      These are some great tips. Here in Quebec it became law two years ago that snow tires are now compulsory from Dec 15 to Apr 15. Snow tires can make the world of difference in slippery conditions.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Rated Up, Awesome, and Useful. I dislike being stranded in snow very much.

      Your avatar is very good and could be used on a book jacket or movie poster.

    • PixelsToLife profile image

      PixelsToLife 

      8 years ago from Arkansas

      Great tips GamerGirl! My uncle bought me a winter survival kit when I first started driving and it has saved me multiple times. My survival kit also includes a spare phone charger just in case my phone dies.

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 

      11 years ago from Neverland

      These are very good points. I work in the snowbelt in Cleveland, Oh (Lake effect snow from Lake Erie) and I always use major roads when traveling to and from work because I know they'll be cleaned sooner. It kills me that people who drive in horrible snow storms every year still don't know to slow down. I lost control of my car last year after someone went speeding past me and fishtailed right in front of me - I had to swerve to miss them. I hope more people read your tips.

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 

      11 years ago from Washington, USA

      Can you empathize with me on munching them for a midnight snack...hehe

    • gamergirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Kiz Robinson 

      11 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

      Right on! Glad you made it through okay, and I can totally empathize with you on the candy in the purse.. ROFL

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 

      11 years ago from Washington, USA

      Nice information. I nearly missed an accident last year when my brakes weren't responding and the car skidded side ways. Likely the car behind me swerved in the opposite direction. I still get jitters remembering that incident. We don't get so much snow here in Seattle hence not used to much of snow driving neither does my car have snow tires. But I always have some candy bars in my purse and now I can justify saying that it's for one of those emergencies...LOL

    • gamergirl profile imageAUTHOR

      Kiz Robinson 

      11 years ago from New Orleans, Louisiana

      Thanks Mom and laringo! It's nice to hear back from folks who DO drive to be let know that yep, I get it! :)

    • laringo profile image

      laringo 

      11 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

      gamergirl, these are excellent tips, and even like myself whose been driving for about a million years,it doesn't hurt to be reminded of driving do's and dont's. This is a very good Hub. Thanks.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      11 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Gamergirl, How much do you charge to be a professional passenger? I'm serious! I'd hire you in a minute!! These are GREAT tips. Even if you're not hypoglycemic, it's a good idea to keep food in the car in case you get stuck.

      And I love your rationale for bundling up. Yep, if Mom's cold, you'd better wear your galoshes! Out here in CA near the Sierras, the weather can change quickly. Every year we see on TV drivers who head up to Lake Tahoe in their jeans and sandals and guess what -- run into snow.

      Your slow, slow, slow advice is the best. In rain and fog, too!!

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