Driving on ice and snow-covered and snowy roads can be a challenge, and as winter weather continues to increase across the country, it’s a good time for a few reminders that will keep you safe behind the wheel this winter.
Make sure your tires have ample tread to provide traction and are filled to the proper tire pressure.
Make sure to carry an ice scraper and tire chains. Practice putting your tire chains on and off while the weather is good.
Snowy weather increases your chances of getting stuck in traffic. Always keep your gas tank at least half full.
Make sure you have an emergency kit in case you are stuck in the snow. An emergency kit should include: A flashlight, road flares, warm gloves, water, first-aid kit, work gloves, a shovel, jumper cables, a blanket, and nonperishable high-protein snacks.
If you travel with pets, make sure you have a bowl with food and water for them as well. It’s also good to carry a big piece of cardboard with you that you can kneel on if you have to install tire chains.
Speed can affect the ability of your tires to maintained traction, leading to a skid, spin, or collision. Driving slower gives you more time to deal with the need for sudden stops, corners, or hills. Make slow, wide turns whenever possible.
The number one tip for breaking is to break early and not often. It’s crucial to leave more space than usual between you and the car ahead of you. Instead of three car lengths ahead, you’ll need 6 to 10 lengths in slick conditions. Most cars today have antilock brakes (ABS), the best way to stop is to apply steady force to the brake pedal.
When breaking, do so in a straight line, without much steering. When turning, you don’t want to be breaking. Never use cruise control when driving in winter conditions.
Make sure your wiper blades are in good condition. Make sure to clear ice and snow from all windows, mirrors, cameras, and your vehicle’s roof. Obscured windows are not only dangerous but illegal in many places.
Always keep an ice scraper/snow brush combination tool in your vehicle. Don’t pour hot water to clear ice or snow from your windows, which can shatter the glass or cause any chips or cracks already in the glass to expand due to the rapid temperature change.
Lastly, make sure to clear deicing chemicals and salty road spray from your windshield using your vehicle’s built-in window washing system.
One thing many people forget to do in winter weather conditions is to check their car’s tailpipe. If your tailpipe is clogged with frozen ice – it could be deadly. If the exhaust can’t escape, odorless and colorless carbon monoxide gas can seep into the cabin of the vehicle and can kill you.
Also, a clogged tailpipe can prevent your vehicle from starting in the first place.
A lot of accidents occur during slick, winter-weather driving conditions. You can do everything right and someone can still slide into you. Be prepared.
Documentation of accidents is crucial for insurance and legal purposes. You may want to do a search of accident lawyers ahead of time and have a phone number handy in your phone or glove box to be able to call someone immediately should an accident occur.
You also may want to consider installing a dashboard video camera and perhaps a rear camera, too, that you keep running at all times while you drive. That way, if you are in a collision from the front or behind, you have visual documentation of the event. Hopefully never need it, but it’s good to have in case you do.
For more information on driving in winter weather from the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), visit for winter driving tips and winter driving safety. You can also download a checklist.