10 Winter Weather Driving Tips

By on December 12, 2011 at 1:47 PM

Posted in: Safety and Insurance Issues

I would’ve written this post a little sooner if I knew “Snowtober” was going to surprise the Northeast back in late October. Better late than never, though! There’s still plenty of winter weather ahead for 2011-2012.

While you can still find a nice day, prepare for the rest of the season by winterizing your vehicle. Then, follow these 10 steps to ensure a safe commute … or trip to the grocery store for the last gallon of milk.

  1. First things first … you 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.
  2. You can prepare for winter driving 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.)
  3. When you are ready to hit the road, shovel around your wheels and under the front and rear bumpers to clear away any snow. Spinning your wheels can dig the hole deeper, build up ice and wear out your tires.
  4. 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.
  5. If you do get stuck, keep in mind that the sharper your front wheels are turned, the more resistance to movement in either direction you create, so try to keep the front tires as straight as possible. You can also keep sand or kitty litter in your trunk to spread around the tires for traction.
  6. If your car skids, 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.
  1. Remember: do not use your cruise control on any slippery surface — even if the roads are just wet.
  2. When going up a hill, try to build some inertia by increasing your speed as you approach the hill and let it carry you up. Increasing your speed while on the hill will just make your wheels spin.
  3. Know your brakes. Apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal and avoid sudden stops.
  4. Once you’ve mastered it, teach your teen driver how to drive in winter weather.

And finally, our “bonus tip” would be to just stay home. Even if you know how to drive in the snow, that doesn’t mean everyone else on the road does. What are your favorite tips for winter driving?