It can be nice waking up to a fresh blanket of snow. It’s peaceful, pretty, and can be fun if you’ve got the day off. If you’re not one of the lucky few who get to stay in and enjoy the view, however, it can be a real pain to drive in (not to mention dangerous). Knowing what to do, and what not to do, can really save you time and keep you much safer on the roads. Here are seven tips on how to maneuver the roads in wintery weather.
1. Get yourself ready to drive in the snow.
This means clearing a path for your car by shoveling the driveway and scraping away any snow or ice on the mirrors and lights on your car. Be sure to leave your house earlier than you normally would. This extra time means you won’t feel rushed when driving in the hazardous conditions, which keeps you, and everyone else on the road, safer. If you live in an area that frequently experiences heavy snow, get snow tires put on your vehicle to ensure your tires have better traction in the slippery conditions.
2. Do a quick maintenance check on your car.
Make sure your defrosters are working, as well as your defogger and antifreeze. Also check your car battery. If snow is blown up under the hood of the car overnight, it can drain the battery without you realizing it. If anything doesn’t seem to be working properly, see if there is anything you can do to get it going again. If not, don’t risk it! Arrange alternative travel plans.
3. Drive slowly.
Winter weather can wreak havoc on roads, especially if your town hasn’t adequately prepared by putting salt down. Black ice is of particular concern, as it is very hard to see but very slippery. Drive more slowly than you normally would. Drive under the speed limit and watch out for people who are driving too fast, as they are more likely to run into problems on the road.
4. Keep your distance from other drivers.
Stay far behind other drivers. Many people recommend keeping about three cars’ lengths behind the car in front of you. The last thing you want to happen is to start to slide forward into another vehicle because you were too close. By the same token, try to warn drivers behind you of your behaviors. Before making a full stop, tap your brakes several times to flash your brake lights. This will alert the person behind you that you are about to stop.
5. Be prepared to deal with skidding.
If your car starts to skid, don’t panic. This will only make matters worse. Remove your foot from the accelerator, but do not brake—this can just make the skid worse, and can potentially make you lose control of the car completely. Steer in the direction you want your car to go and slowly recover from the skid. Take it extra slow for a couple of minutes after a skid to give your tires a chance to regain proper traction.
6. Take turns slowly and with caution.
Turning while on roads that have been affected by winter weather can be iffy. It’s easy to complete the turn too widely, as the car tends to move more on the snow than it would under normal driving conditions. A good rule of thumb is to complete the turn the same way with the steering wheel (don’t jerk it, but turn it smoothly and quickly) but go slowly and while pumping the brakes if necessary.
7. Keep your headlights on.
Yes, even during the day. You want other motorists to be as aware of your presence as possible, especially when snowfall is heavy.