Each year, winter weather brings snowy and icy conditions to roads in many states throughout the U.S. Winter weather can challenge even the most experienced driver, with the U.S. Department of Transportation reporting that 24% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy roads.
If your travels take you out into the ice and snow, give yourself a refresher on how to drive safely and best handle adverse driving conditions. It could mean the difference between arriving safely and ending up in a dangerous situation that may require you to use your auto insurance for repairs—or worse. Read on to learn about safe driving tips during the winter months.
1. Before You Begin Driving: Proper Winter Car Preparations
Safe winter driving starts with making sure your car is ready for driving on icy roads or snowy conditions. Before heading out on the road, ensure your vehicle is prepared with winter car care tips. That includes performing regular maintenance on the car’s battery, tires, wipers, coolant and other important parts.
If you have yet to put snow tires on the vehicle or add chains on your tires, do so before driving in winter weather. Ensure your tires are properly inflated, too. Colder temperatures can greatly affect the amount of air in each tire.
Inside your car, make sure to have an ice scraper and snow removal brush at your disposal. Prepare an emergency kit in the event that you’re stuck in a snowbank or slide off the road and can’t immediately get back on the pavement. Contents of your emergency kit should include:
- Extra blankets
- A first aid kit
- Unopened water bottles
- A phone charger
- A flashlight
- Non-perishable snacks
- Jumper cables
It might take a bit of time to prepare for a trip in icy conditions, but in the event of a snow or ice storm, you’ll be glad you did!
2. Know your vehicle.
You may have heard the advice to “know your vehicle,” but what does that mean? This simply refers to understanding the features of your car and how they work. For example, you should know whether your car has front-wheel drive, traction control or an anti-lock braking system (ABS), all of which can help you when driving in icy conditions.
If your car does have these features, driving it will be different than driving a car without them. Consider anti-lock brakes. These are designed for you to have to push hard against the brake pedal. Cars without anti-lock brakes, however, will need you to pump the brakes in a slow, rhythmic way to prevent them from locking up.
If your car has rear-wheel drive, it can be more difficult to drive in ice or snow because you’ll be more likely to lose control from the back end of the car. Consider taking another vehicle with front- or all-wheel drive on your trip out into the elements, or ensure that the road’s you’ll be traveling on have been properly cleared and treated by road crews.
You may want to consider winter tires to provide additional traction when driving in dangerous conditions. Winter tires have a special tread that keeps the rubber soft, even in very cold temperatures. This allows the tire to better grip the road. These tires also have a deeper tread pattern for extra grip on the road. You may even save on your auto insurance, as some carriers offer a discount for using winter tires. They’ll appreciate the reduction in your risk and may reduce your premiums in return.
3. Know your route.
Looking at your route before you head out will help avoid confusion while driving, especially if you’re taking unfamiliar roads. Even if your trip is short, you should review the map of the area and GPS instructions so you can identify a place to pull off if conditions become too hazardous to drive. You can also consider mapping out an alternate route or detours in case snow or ice compromises your path. By knowing your route ahead of time and having a backup plan, you can avoid danger and arrive at your destination safely.
4. Drive slower than normal.
It’s no secret that driving slowly is key to navigating winter road conditions. Give yourself extra time to reach your destination. Brake farther back from stop signs and intersections in case you slide, and remember to pump the brakes if you don’t have anti-lock brakes.
As you come up on an icy corner, keep the wheel straight as you slow down. Only once you know you have the car under control should you turn the wheel. Let your foot off the brakes and then turn the wheel—but don’t give it any gas. Once you’ve started to straighten the wheel, you can start to speed up.
You’ll want to look farther down the road—and anticipate what to do next—more than usual. That means driving slower. If you feel the car start to skid or slide, look where you want to go—not the direction the car is heading. According to experts, cars almost always end up going in the direction that the driver is looking.1
5. Watch out for other drivers.
All of the tips we’ve discussed so far will help to keep you safe on snowy and icy roads, but remember that while you can control your own behavior on the road, you can’t control other drivers. Others on the road may not be as well-equipped to drive in winter conditions as you. If you’re driving on ice and snow on a busy road, be extra mindful of the drivers and vehicles around you.
Most people will take longer to stop, turn and accelerate when driving in winter weather. Give other drivers space and time to maneuver safely. Remember to keep a safe following distance and be especially aware of large vehicles that may not be able to stop quickly. Exercising patience and caution toward other drivers will go a long way in keeping everyone safe.
Bonus tip: Put your phone away.
Distracted driving is a huge problem and can pose an even greater risk in winter conditions. Before you set out on the road, put on your podcast or playlist and then put your phone away. Call or text your friends, family or workplace to let them know you’re on the way and then remove the temptation to glance at your phone while driving.
If you do need to make a phone call, pull your vehicle off the road—preferably into a parking lot—and then dial the number or send the text message.
SelectQuote Can Help you Find Auto Insurance Coverage
While using these tips will help you to better navigate winter driving, accidents still do happen. If you’re involved in a collision while driving in ice and snow, having the right auto insurance coverage can help protect your finances and your peace of mind. At SelectQuote, we have over 35 years of industry experience finding affordable auto insurance coverage for drivers across the country. We’ll take the time to learn about your needs and budget, then search insurance carriers for you in a matter of minutes. We do the shopping while you do the saving.