top of page

Tips For Winter Driving 


You shouldn’t panic about having to drive in winter weather conditions, but you should understand circumstances and changing weather will be different during this time of the year. Driving in wintry weather conditions can be difficult and dangerous — even for those who have extensive experience doing so. 

The best tip for driving in severe winter weather conditions is to avoid it. There is no reason to put yourself in danger if driving in snow and ice is not necessary. Drivers who must brave icy roadways need to keep in mind that patience is necessary. Exert extra caution when driving in winter road conditions. Snow and wintery mixed precipitation can make roads slick and slippery, which in turn, can:

tips for driving in the snow
  • Impact your control of the vehicle.

  • Effect your ability to maintain traction.

  • Have some bearing on your ability to stop your vehicle within a safe distance.

  • Require you to use certain driving skills not normally used on dry road surfaces.

Winter traction problems require a number of changes from summer driving techniques. The general rule for driving on slippery  surfaces is drive slowly. Winter driving calls for special driving skills. This means "gentle" acceleration, "gentle" braking and "small, smooth" steering movements to avoid getting in an accident, skidding off the road or getting stuck.

If you accelerate hard, you go beyond the amount of traction that is available and your wheels spin. If you brake too hard and your wheels lock, you break the traction, which means that when you turn the steering wheel, the vehicle will not turn - it will continue in the direction it was going when the wheels locked.

  • Ensure that your brakes and windshield wipers are in good, working condition and your tires are proper for winter weather. Have the tire tread depth checked. Check all your fluid levels in your vehicle. Especially your windshield washer fluid! Tires that are balding or showing signs of uneven wear (have wheel alignment checked), can become a more serious issue once the roads become slick with ice or snow. This could result in loss of control and steering ability. 

Remember, balding tires can be treacherous any time of the year, especially when the roads are wet. But winter conditions will only increase the risk factor. 

Bottom line:
  “Don’t put off replacing worn down tires”.
  • Clear your car of all snow and ice. It’s the LAW! Even if there is no snow or ice to deal with, make sure that you completely defrost your windshield and rear window before driving in the winter. Frost significantly reduces your visibility. Wait until it is completely melted before driving. With snow, make sure all your windows are free of ice/snow including your mirrors. You should be able to see out all of your windows and in all your mirrors.

      Not a small portal.

winter driving tips
  • Most new vehicles come equipped with antilock brakes. Familiarize yourself with whether your vehicle has antilock brakes and how to properly use your brakes to stop in an emergency. Gently apply brakes and do not suddenly accelerate. Slamming on the brakes can cause you to lose control of the vehicle. If your vehicle is stopped and cannot get traction, attempting to quickly accelerate from a stop can cause your car to become further stuck in the snow. Alternatively, it can cause you to lose control if your car suddenly gains traction. You should attempt to avoid stopping if possible, and do not stop while going up a hill if it can be avoided.

  • Give yourself plenty of extra time to travel to your destination if snow or ice is expected. Make sure that you are not in a rush to get anywhere. Speeding is never smart, but speeding on snowy or icy roads can be deadly. You will be forced to drive at slower than normal speeds and are more likely to be stalled by accidents when driving in winter weather conditions. Speeding or rushing when roadways are slick can cause you to lose control of your car and crash. Adjust your speed to safely match weather conditions, road conditions, visibility, and traffic. You should also slow down at the first sign of rain, drizzle, or snow on the road. The slippery roads can reduce traction and you're at risk of losing control of your vehicle. Excessive driving speed is a major cause of fatal crashes, and higher speeds may cause more severe crashes. The posted speed limit is not meant to be the guideline for your minimum speed, especially during bad road conditions. Be aware. You can be pulled over for simply going faster than you should in bad weather, regardless of whether you were under the speed limit or not. There is no real trick to deciding what speed limit to go with or whether your car is maintaining traction. ​

........My advice, reduce your speed by 1/3 on wet roads (if icy, what feels safe to maintain traction) and by 1/2 or more on snow packed roads, (i.e, if you would normally be traveling at speeds of 60 mph on dry pavement, then on a wet road you should reduce your speed to 40 mph or less. On a snow-packed road you should reduced your speed to 30 mph or less). When you come upon slick, icy roads you should drive slowly and cautiously and pull off the road if you can no longer safely control the vehicle.

  • Never use cruise control in winter weather conditions. For non-four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicles, use a lower gear then drive (if available) to provide more traction if needed. Your vehicle will be less likely to accelerate quicker if it begins to slide on a icy surface if it's being driven in a lower gear. 

  • Allow for plenty of space between you and any cars traveling in front of you. Braking distance may double or even triple during snowy and icy conditions. 

  • Ice is not always visible. Ensure you slow down and drive gently with no harsh braking or accelerating especially when approaching a curve, bend in the road or when turning to avoid skidding of the road. Brake earlier with more distance than normal to avoid skidding when braking.

traffic driving in the snow
winter driving tips for traction

While it may be something no one wants to think about, there's always a chance you could end up stranded in you car. If this should happen, one of the biggest mistake's is leaving the car to look for help. Unless the car is in the road or in otherwise unsafe conditions, the car may be the only safe, dry, and fairly warm place for you.

Put flares near the car, if you have them. Clear your exhaust pipe of mud, ice or snow and then let the car run for a few minutes each hour for warmth. You have a better chance of survival if you stay in a shelter and do not end up lost or even further from help if in an unknown area.

 If you're driving in your car and you begin to slide on ice, what is the first thing you should do?

     ANSWER: A. Take your foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction that you want your car to travel in.

Keep these tips in mind and use common sense, and you should be fine. Plenty of motorists drive winter roads every year without incident. Yours truly included. Reduce your risk by being smart, prepared and safe.

Again, if it is not necessary for you to drive in winter weather conditions, don't get behind the wheel.

If you must go, the top 8 things to remember always:

  1. Obtain maximum visibility by cleaning all windows and mirrors of ice/snow.

  2. Use low-beam headlights and windshield wipers.

  3. Drive slowly and stay farther  behind the vehicle ahead.

  4. Slow to a crawl on ice.

  5. Slow down as you approach curves  and intersections.

  6. Avoid fast turns and quick stops.

  7. Streets and highways covered with snow, snow pack, or ice are extremely hazardous. They are most hazardous when the snow or ice begins to melt. The slush or wet surface acts as a lubricant and traction is reduced.

  8. For manual shift drivers: Shift to low gear before going down a steep hill, but do not downshift too fast.  

A simple way to try to get your car unstuck in snow.

     You can usually start moving on ice or packed snow by accelerating gently. If this does not work, or if you are on a slight downgrade, try shifting to a lower gear or use overdrive. Manual transmissions, shift to 2nd gear 1st.

If you are stuck in deep snow, try the “rocking your car method”. To do so, start forward, gently accelerate and you will move forward a little. When your wheels spin, immediately stop accelerating and hold the vehicle with the brake to stop it from rolling back.

Then shift to reverse, release the brake and accelerate gently. You will move back. When the wheels spin again, stop immediately.

Repeat the forward-backward rocking movement, increasing the distance you move each time until you gain sufficient momentum to keep moving ahead. Be sure the wheels have stopped turning before changing gears to avoid damage to your transmission. Once you get rolling, try to stay where there’s a better chance to maintain traction. Choose snow rather than ice to drive on. A small movement to one side will often move you from a low traction icy patch onto snow.

This material is protected by U.S. and International copyright laws. Reproduction

or distribution of the material without written permission of the author is prohibited.

bottom of page