7 Winter Driving Safety Tips

Slippery roads can present a driving hazard, a situation that may be magnified when snow and ice are also present. Take to the road unprepared and you might hit a ski and slam into another car, a utility pole or even run over a pedestrian. Winter tires or chains and four-wheel drive won’t guarantee that you will avoid an accident, but each can make a difference in cold weather driving.

winter driving
Seasonal hazards make winter driving especially risky.

1. Fasten Your Seat Belt

Make a point to fasten your seat belt every time you get behind the wheel of a car. Require vehicle occupants to do the same. You can quickly lose control of a car if you are not buckled up and slip out of your seat. An unbuckled passenger can cause you to lose control just the same.

2. Use Winter Tires

Most cars are equipped with all-season tires, but when it comes to winter driving the grip may not be sufficient. Ideally, you’ll replace all four tires with winter (snow) tires to ensure even performance and a better grip all around.

3. Turn Off the Cruise Control

Cruise control saves gasoline, but should only be used on dry surfaces. When used where ice and snow are present, it can cause you to lose control of your car.

4. Replace Your Windshield Wipers

You’ll be using your windshield wipers frequently during the winter even on clear days. Slush, mud and spray back from other vehicles will pepper your windshield, so you need good working wipers to handle the job. You should also fill the washer reservoir with anti-icing fluid.

5. Check All Exterior Lights

You may be able to see everyone, but can they see you? Head lamps, fog lights, LED lights, turn signal lights and tail lamps should be in good working order. They should also be free of ice and snow build up. Wipe down lenses with a dry rag before taking to the road. Keep a rag and a solution of anti-freeze window cleaner handy as you travel.

6. Get a Handle on Your Steering

Slippery road conditions may cause your front tires to lose grip and you may be tempted to compensate by continuing to turn the wheel in the direction of the skid. Instead, gently press down on the brake while holding the steering wheel steady. Once you regain control of the car, redirect the steering wheel to the direction that you want to go.

7. Black Ice is Transparent and Extremely Dangerous Too

Unseen to most drivers is ice that is transparent, what lies over the road surfaces, hence the name “black ice.” Black ice can appear without warning and may show up long after the snow has melted, residual moisture that quickly freezes when surface temperatures drop. Winter tires and chains can help slow your car, but you may not be able to stop it without hitting a curb or a stationary object. Always allow plenty of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Handle turns and twisty roads with extreme care.

Winter Driving: Avoid Black Ice

With adequate preparation you can drive your car all winter long. Allow plenty of distance between vehicles and be mindful that black ice is an unseen hazard that can linger long after the snow has melted.

Further Reading

Higher Education: Winter Driving School

Winter Driving School the Michelin and Tire Rack Way

Author: Matthew Keegan
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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