In the Midwest, the weather is beginning to cool down and leaves are beginning to change color. You may be planning your final road trip of the season before the snow falls. Winter will be upon us before we know it. While I look forward to the first snowfall, I also dread it. Especially if I’m faced with the task of braving the roads. It seems that drivers forget from season to season how to drive in the snow. So, I’m offering a refresher in the form of a few tips.
12 Tips for Driving in the Snow
1. Clean off your car before driving.
Keep a snow scraper and brush in your vehicle to clean off the hood of your car, windshield, and mirrors before you attempt to drive.
2. Keep an emergency kit in your car.
No one thinks they’ll ever need it, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared. Pack a few bottles of water, some snacks (think granola bars), a car charger for your cell phone, blanket, flashlight, snow scraper, flares, kitty litter or sand and a small shovel in your car. In the instance that your car slides off the road or you’re stuck in a ditch, these items could be the difference between an inconvenience and major discomfort in the best case scenario, or life in death in the worst.
3. Easy does it.
Brake gently, accelerate slowly and turn smoothly. When driving in the snow, it’s important to slow down and take things slow. Fast, jerky movements on a slick patch of pavement could make you wind up somewhere you don’t want to be.
4. Allow extra time to drive from Point A to Point B.
Pretty self-explanatory, right? If you’re going to be out, allow a few extra minutes based on the road conditions. A large amount of snow, the presence of ice and blowing snow all factor in to lengthened drive time.
5. Go slow.
Even if the roads don’t appear to be slippery, you should reduce your rate of speed. I’m not talking about driving 10 miles an hour in a 45 mph zone if the weather really doesn’t warrant it, that’s dangerous too. But do use common sense. And keep in mind that 4-wheel drive isn’t a reason to continue to drive as fast as you normally would in clear conditions.
6. Turn on your lights.
Anytime visibility is impaired due to weather you should turn on your headlights.
7. Allow extra space between you and the car in front of you.
Snow is slippery, especially when it’s mixed with ice. Make sure you allow double the space between you and the vehicles in front of you than you would allow in ideal conditions.
8. Brake gently and only when necessary.
Know your vehicle and how to brake during winter storms. Slamming on your brakes can cause you to slide and lose control of your vehicle.
9. Don’t use cruise control.
While I love cruise control, it can be dangerous in the rain, snow, or on ice. If your car begins to slide or hydroplanes, the tires can spin faster trying to regain a constant speed. This could cause you to lose control of the car.
10. Practice. Practice. Practice.
In the Midwest, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter snow during the winter, and sometimes during the late fall and early spring months as well. It’s best to be prepared and one way to do that is to practice- especially if you are or have young drivers. When my kids were learning to drive, my husband took them out driving each time it snowed. As a result, they’re more confident drivers and don’t freeze up when it snows like I do.
11. If you don’t feel safe, pull over or find somewhere safe to stop.
If conditions worsen or you feel that you shouldn’t be driving, listen to your gut. Pull over as soon as you find a safe spot to rest and wait out the storm.
12. Make sure you have good tires.
Check your tires for wear, tear, and low tread. Make sure you’re prepared for winter driving long before that first flake of snow is visible.