Each year, winter weather brings snowy and icy conditions to roads to almost 73% of the contiguous United States. Winter weather can challenge even the most experienced driver, which explains why 17% of all vehicle crashes occur during the winter months1.
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 now. 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:
- An extra blanket or two
- A first aid kit
- Unopened water bottles
- A phone charger
- A flashlight
- 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.
One of the best tips for driving on ice is to know your vehicle. Understanding the features in your car can go a long way toward keeping you safe. Drivers should know whether or not their car has front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, traction control or anti-lock brakes (ABS).
Driving a vehicle with these features can often involve different practices than cars without. For example, anti-lock brakes are designed to have the brake pedal pushed hard. Cars without, however, require pumping the brakes in a slow rhythmic motion to keep them from locking up.
Cars with ABS have a computer that manages the braking force as you steer. The shuddering sensation that you feel means that it’s working!
If your car has all-wheel drive or 4×4, you may be tempted to drive like normal in snow and ice, but this may be a bad idea. These features don’t prevent you from sliding on ice or other slick conditions because there’s really nothing for the tires to grab for traction. Even if your vehicle is equipped with AWD, you’ll still want to drive carefully.
3. Know your route.
Before you hit the road, take some time and look at your route. Driving an unfamiliar road in hazardous conditions could lead to an accident. Even if your trip is relatively short, review a map for details regarding places you might be able to stop and pull off if the road is impassable or conditions deteriorate while you’re enroute. This may even involve mapping out alternate routes or detours if necessary.
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 ABS.
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 looking2.
5. Watch out for other drivers.
Just because you have a good handle on how to drive in snow or icy conditions doesn’t mean everyone else does. If you are on a busy road, be mindful of other drivers and vehicles.
Everyone on the road will take longer to stop, turn, and accelerate in winter conditions. Give the other drivers the space and time they need to maneuver. Increase your following distance and be mindful of large vehicles that may not be able to stop as quickly as you.
6. Put your phone away.
Distracted driving is a huge problem, and it’s even worse in wintry 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
Even with preparation and good habits, accidents can still happen. If you experience a car accident while driving in wintry weather, you’ll need auto insurance to help repair the damage. SelectQuote can help you find affordable auto coverage. We compare rates from dozens of the most trusted insurance companies in the nation and can help you find the right auto insurance to meet your needs.