Driving in Snow and Ice

Automotive, Home & Family
on October 10, 2011

These tips from the experts at The Weather Channel, AAA and Edmunds will help you manage winter driving conditions.

Don’t be a hero. Your Wednesday night bowling buddies don’t want you risking your life driving to the bowling alley. Unless you’re an emergency responder, medical professional or tow truck driver, stay home when the roads are hazardous.

Prepare your vehicle. Chances are if past winters in your area have been characterized by heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions, the next winter is going to be characterized by heavy snowfall and blizzard conditions. Put some snow tires on your car. Replace windshield wipers. Make sure the antifreeze is fresh. Check your headlights. And have blankets, a first aid kit and an emergency food supply in the trunk in case you get stranded.

Slow down. Ice is slippery. Get your brakes inspected. Even though snow drifts provide some cushion if you skid off the road, brakes are the preferred method of stopping for most drivers. Slow down and give yourself plenty of room to brake. Apply the brakes gently when traveling over ice. If you skid, ease up on the brakes. Accelerate slowly as well.

Know where you are. If you’ve lived in an area long enough, you’ve learned which roads are most hazardous in the winter. Avoid bridges and intersections where water crosses on a regular basis during storms. If you’re traveling and are not familiar with an area, ask someone who is or just stay in your hotel room. Be especially aware of “black ice,” nearly transparent ice that looks like a harmless puddle. Test an area you suspect to be black ice by gently pressing the brakes as you cross it.

Turn wisely. If your back wheels skid to the left, turn your front wheels to the left. If your back wheels skid to the right, turn your front wheels to the right. This general rule should be avoided, however, if turning in the aforementioned directions will guide you into the side of a semi. If that’s the case, turn your front wheels in the direction you wish to go. If the front wheels skid, take your foot off the gas and put the car in neutral. Your car will eventually slow down and regain traction. At that point, turn the front wheels in the direction you wish to go.

Get out. There’s an expression for someone who tries really hard to progress in life but remains stuck: it’s “spinning your wheels,” and that’s what can happen to you if you’re stuck in the snow and try to accelerate your way out. If you’re stuck in the snow, instead of spinning your wheels, turn the steering wheel side to side and lightly accelerate your way out. If that doesn’t work, pour sand, gravel or kitty litter under the tires to provide more traction. If that doesn’t work, call a tow truck.