9 Tips for Driving in the Snow
By preparing beforehand and being alert to hazards on the road, you can better protect yourself while driving in the winter.
Winter driving safety begins before you even leave your house. This checklist can help every driver master the three Ps of safe winter driving (according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration): prepare for the trip, protect yourself and prevent crashes on the road.1 Here are some tips for driving in the snow.
Prepare before you hit the road
Plan your route.
First, check weather and traffic reports to plan the safest way to go, giving yourself extra time as needed.2,1 Make sure to share your travel plans with friends or family.1
Charge your cellphone and pack the charger.2 Assemble a cold-weather kit with blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothes and boots. Remember to have your usual car emergency kit ready, too, along with a windshield brush and scraper, shovel and road salt. For electric and hybrid cars, keep gas in the vehicle to support the engine. You may need more electricity – and fuel – than anticipated.3
Get your vehicle ready.
Fill up your gas tank, your windshield washer fluid and antifreeze (bringing extra). Check your tire pressure and tread. Ensure your windshield wipers and headlights work. Then, clear your lights, windows, hood, sensors and roof of any snow, ice or frost. If you have an electric or hybrid car, plug in your vehicle as often as possible when parked.3
Protect yourself with winter driving tips
Avoid sudden braking and don’t use cruise control.2 It takes longer to stop on snow and ice, so keep more space between you and the vehicle in front of you.3 Give snowplows and salt trucks plenty of room to do their work.2
Use extra caution on bridges and exit ramps, which tend to freeze before other parts of the roadway.4 Take note of traffic signs that warn of areas likely to be slippery in wintry conditions.5 On long drives, take frequent breaks to help you stay alert.2
Wait for help.
If your car stalls or you’re in an accident, stay in your vehicle. To improve your visibility, keep an interior dome light on, and either place a reflector or attach a bright cloth to your antenna.1
Prevent crashes in bad weather
Buy the right tires.
Install studless snow tires in the fall to get ready for the season with better traction. Check your owner’s manual to find out how often you need to replace your tires.3
Before traveling on main roads and highways, sharpen your skills after the first snowfall by driving in an empty parking lot or residential streets.3
Check your owner’s manual to refamiliarize yourself with your vehicle’s features that can help prevent accidents, such as antilock brakes, electronic stability control, adaptive headlights, and lane departure warning. Make sure you understand beforehand how they perform on slippery roads.3
Remember, if road conditions are hazardous and you don’t have the supplies you need, you should avoid driving. Wait until weather conditions improve before venturing out in your vehicle.
- Safe Winter Driving, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 2019.
- Getting Traction – Winter Weather Driving, National Weather Service, 2019.
- Focus on Safety: Winter Driving Tips, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2019.
- Safe Winter Driving Tips, Massachusetts Department of Transportation, 2019.
- Winter Driving Safety Tips, DriveSafe, 2019.
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