Safe Driving Tips in the Snow and Ice

When winter arrives, snow and ice can wreak havoc on travel. Anyone who needs to drive during inclement weather must take precautions to ensure safety and whenever possible, it's best to avoid traveling; waiting until the roads are safer before venturing out. But, when travel is unavoidable, drivers should remain attentive and plan ahead of the winter weather.

Before setting out in winter weather conditions, make sure that the gas tank is at least half full to prevent the gas lines from freezing. Slow driving is best to maximize reaction times and keep speeds down. Steady and controlled braking helps prevent accidents due to loss of control of the vehicle. Taking extra time to arrive at destinations usually makes driving safer.

When it's not possible to avoid driving, travelers should get local weather information to know about road conditions. It's also important to allow more time for traveling for several reasons. Snowy and icy conditions make travel take longer due to slower speeds. Slower maneuvering means that accelerating, turning, and stopping take more time. Traffic may become more congested due to these slower speeds or due to accidents.

Safety demands that drivers allow extra distance between themselves and other vehicles to leave enough time and distance to stop in emergencies. Under normal road conditions, a safe following distance is about three or four seconds. When driving on snowy or icy roads, following distance should be increased to about 10 seconds. Other drivers on the road can also create hazards. If other drivers are driving too fast or in an unsafe manner, they may cause accidents.

If a car skids or becomes stuck, it may be impossible to avoid a collision due to the car's momentum. To avoid becoming completely stuck, a driver should try to maintain very slow movement. If the car stops completely, the tires may start spinning, which will prevent movement. If this happens, it may be possible to move again by shifting the transmission to the lowest gear. Sometimes turning off traction control can also help get a vehicle out of the snow. Rocking the tires back and forth between drive and reverse may help build momentum.

If it's not possible to move the vehicle, the first thing to do is to make sure the vehicle can be seen by turning on lights and hazards. It's also crucial to ensure that the tailpipe is not blocked by snow or ice, because this could lead to deadly carbon monoxide building up in the vehicle from idling the engine. If road conditions are safe, it may be possible to shovel the vehicle free of the snow. If weather conditions are unsafe and no shelter is available, it's best to stay with the vehicle until rescue workers arrive.

Preparing a car for winter driving is important. Checking antifreeze levels and engine coolant levels will help ensure that the engine does not freeze during very cold temperatures. Switching to a winter-grade motor oil may be advantageous. It is important to maintain a clear view of the road during inclement weather, so drivers should keep windshield wiper fluid levels full. Checking tires is also crucial to ensure that they have sufficient tread. People who live in areas that experience significant snow and ice may consider installing snow tires during the winter. Tire pressure is also important, so drivers should follow recommendations in their vehicle owner's manual. Packing a winter survival kit to keep in the trunk is also important. This kit should include blankets, nonperishable food, water, a flashlight, a first-aid kit, extra coats and gloves, a charged cell phone, and a radio.