Driving on snowy and ice-covered roads can be tricky even for seasoned, licensed NY drivers. Both snow and ice decrease the vehicle’s traction, which makes it difficult to keep moving, steer well, or stop.
The winter months also come with foggy weather and fewer daylight hours, which make visibility a challenge. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, every year, 24% of weather related car accidents take place on slushy, icy, or snowy pavement and 15% occur during sleet or snowfall.
Besides, we have over 1,300 deaths and over 116,800 injuries each year due to vehicle accidents on icy, snowy, and slushy pavement. And given that over 70% of the country’s roads are located in snowy areas, it’s crucial for all drivers to observe the following driving tips in winter.
1. Prepare Your Vehicle
Top on our winter driving tips list is what you should do before hitting the road. Before the snowy weather, it’s important that you prepare the car by ensuring it can withstand the harsh driving conditions. You could do it on your own or engage a mechanic.
- Ensure the tires are in pristine condition – During cold weather, the pressure in the tires reduces. Worn tires will get stuck on snowy roads. Thus, check to ensure they have ample thread and the required pressure. Refer to the owner’s manual to confirm the indicated pressure.
- Keep the gas tank at least 50 percent full.
- Bring emergency supplies to your car, including emergency kit, tire chains, and ice scraper.
2. Plan Your Drive
One of the most important tips on winter driving is to plan the journey before you leave your office or home. Start by considering whether your trip is vital enough to risk your own safety, your vehicle’s safety, and other road users’ safety.
Thus, if you must go out:
- Plan a route devoid of congested areas and steep hills
- Plan to drive on a path that’s plowed, sanded, and de-iced.
- Charge your phone or carry a charger
- Let your family know your plans including when you are likely to be back at home
After getting behind the wheel, put the phone away. As you drive on a snow-covered road, you should concentrate 100%, which is why you shouldn’t even the hands-free feature on your phone. A phone conversation can be distracting.
3. Consider Winter Tires
Snow tires are not mandatory for all drivers. But if you live somewhere frequented by ice, snow, and freezing temperatures, these tires can be a life-saver.
Winter tires are made to increase traction, which is usually difficult to achieve with other tires when the car skids on snowy ground. Top-notch winter tires have rubber compounds and tread designs meant to enhance grip in cold, icy, or snowy environment.
4. Drive Slowly but Steadily
Do you remember how you drove carefully during your road test? Winter driving requires that you exercise similar modesty and care.
When braking and accelerating, you should do so as if there are fragile eggs beneath the pedals that can break if you push too fast or hard.
Additionally, exceeding the ability of your tires to hold a grip can lead to a spin, skid, or collision. Thus, you should anticipate corners, stops, and hills beforehand, and adjust your speed early.
Remember to plan those slow, wide turns because whipping your steering wheel will only turn the front wheels into snowboards. For the most part, you want the tires to perform one task at a time.
In other words, you want to accelerate and brake in a straight line. Besides, only steer when not accelerating or braking.
5. Brake Early, but Not Often
When moving on ice or snow, you’ll want to leave more room between your vehicle and the one in front than you do on a dry road. For example, if in a dry condition, you want three vehicle lengths between you and the car ahead, you may want six to eight lengths when the road is slick.
The idea is to have enough space to enable you brake early and effectively so you’ve control over your car. If you jab the brakes on a slick highway, you are likely to put the vehicle in an uncontainable skid.
6. Momentum is a Critical Part of Winter Driving Tips
When moving through deep snow or climbing a slippery hill, you need to maintain momentum. If you pause or stop, you may find it difficult to continue moving. No, you don’t have to speed, but you need enough momentum to help you move forward steadily.
However, icy or snowy weather doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow traffic signals. On the contrary, you’ll want to move toward the signals slowly enough so you reach the intersection when the green light is on and keep moving forward.
If there’s constant traffic flowing from both sides toward the light, then you’ll want to be in full control of your vehicle.
Note that, the same momentum can be problematic when you want to stop. You wouldn’t like to have a lot of speed that makes it difficult to stop when you’d like to.
7. Clear Your Vision
Before driving a snow-covered vehicle, you’ll want to remove ice and snow from the roof and windows. In most place, it’s illegal to drive an ice-covered vehicle. You only need to take a few minutes to clear snow from your car, and it could save you a possible crash.
Snow from the roof of your car may slide down to the windshield whenever you stop. It may also jump to other vehicles’ windshields as you move down the road. Most importantly, you’ll want to clear the taillights and headlights so you can see clearly and be seen as well.
Keep a snowbrush and ice scraper in your car so you don’t rely on using your credit card to clear off snow from the windows. Besides, don’t ever pour hot water on the car windows to clear snow or ice. While the glass may not shatter, any cracks or chips can easily grow because of fast temperature variation.
8. Check the Tailpipe
You’ll want to check the tailpipe of your car before you drive it on a snowy day. It’s important to ensure it’s not clogged with ice, snow, or other dirt.
If your car’s exhaust is clogged, toxic carbon monoxide can leak through to the cabin. The odorless and colorless gas can be fatal to people inhaling it in the enclosed cabin.
Regardless of the outside temperature, if stuck in snow, you’ll want to keep the window a little cracked as you wait for help. Driving along icy berms can damage the exhaust system. And even if the tailpipe is clear, it’s possible for a damaged exhaust system to feed carbon dioxide into the cabin of your car.
9. Child Safety Seats and Jackets
During winter, everyone in the family has a heavy coat. It’s dangerous to put your child in the child safety seat while they’ve a puffy jacket.
Instead, you’ll want to take the heavy coat off your child before positioning them in the car seat. A thick jacket may make the harness of the seat too loose to provide safety protection to the child. If a collision occurs, the child can easily slide out of the seat.
Safety experts recommend putting children in their seats when they have a sweatshirt. You may then use a jacket as a blanket or get a blanket meant for the child’s safety seat.
With the above winter driving tips, you should be ready to drive on a snow-covered road. If you feel fatigued while driving in winter, take a rest; don’t drive. You may call for towing help if you are stuck. To learn more about driving in different weather conditions, you can contact us