Know Before You Go: How to Drive in the Snow

Snowstorms swept across the U.S. this week, from northeast to west. If you were lucky, you only saw a few small flurries or maybe winter skipped over your town entirely. For the rest of us, white powder coated our homes, cars, and the roads, bringing with it the customary traffic and panic it does each season that makes our commutes a hassle. Equip yourself with these winter driving tips before you hit the road next time a snowstorm hits for a safer and—hopefully—a hassle-free drive.

How to drive in snow

Three tips for driving in the snow

Even the most experienced drivers may have questions about how to drive in snow, and with good reason! A road blanketed in snow powder can be dangerous to anyone behind the wheel. Keep these tips top of mind when you’re driving this winter.

Prepare your car.

Part of driving safely in snow starts before your tires ever hit the roadways.

  • Tires – Check your tire pressure and make sure it matches the recommended inflation in your owner’s manual. Make sure your tires are inflated. Inflated tires with a proper tread that isn’t worn out or uneven will ensure you have the best traction possible when you’re driving in snow.
  • Wiper fluid – Have you filled up your wiper fluid well with winter-safe wiper fluid? This will help melt ice and snow and keep your view clear when you’re on the road.
  • Emergency kit – Stock your car with an emergency kit in case things don’t go according to plan. It’s important to have jumper cables, a shovel, and blankets, especially during winter.

Look ahead.

It’s a simple mistake to make. We focus so much on what’s directly in front of us that we forget to anticipate what we’re going to need to do next. As you’re driving, be sure to look ahead. When there is snow or ice coating the roads, it gets slippery fast! By looking further down the road, we give ourselves more time to prepare for curves, traffic lights, or even vehicles stopped on the shoulder.

Know what to do if you slide.

There’s nothing scarier than feeling like you are no longer in control of your car. That’s what makes skidding across snow scary. There are things you can do to correct your vehicle if it starts to slide. In a perfect world, the best thing to do is to assess the state of the road and slow down where appropriate to avoid skidding altogether, but it isn’t always easy to predict what’s going to happen. Snow shifts and sometimes you can’t see ice until you’re on top of it.

In these cases, remember this:

  • Front wheels losing traction – If you feel your front wheels going wonky and heading into a slide, gently take your foot off the gas pedal. Keep your eyes focused on where you want to go and, in a moment, your car should regain traction.
  • Rear wheels losing traction – If your rear wheels start sliding, try to remain calm and take action to avoid spinning out. You’ll want to gently turn your steering wheel in the same direction that your rear wheels are sliding. Remember to ease off the gas and look ahead, too.

Most vehicles are equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS) these days. If you find you’re unable to stop in a skid, press down on your brake and hold. Your car’s internal computer will adjust the amount of force used as your car begins to slow down.

Now that you’ve reviewed these winter driving best practices, we hope you feel more confident in your next snow-laden commute. By preparing yourself for inclement weather, you make driving safer for everyone—thank you!