Driving during a winter storm

How to Drive During a Winter Storm: 10 Tips to Stay Safe

by Zutobi · Updated Nov 30, 2023

Winter weather comes with a whole range of seasonal driving hazards. A snowstorm is often partnered with low visibility, icy roads, and a host of other dangers. In this article, we’ll go over a few ways you can be a safer driver during a blizzard or snowstorm.

What are some of the Dangers of Driving in a Winter Storm?

Here are a few factors that make winter storms dangerous to drive in.

  • Poor visibility, increasing the chances of accidents with your environment or other drivers. You may even encounter whiteouts– conditions where you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you.
  • Loose ice can dislodge off of a vehicle and hit you or another driver.
  • Icy roads with less traction and longer reaction times
  • Becoming stranded due to accident, failed vehicle, or severe weather conditions.
Icy roads with less traction and longer reaction times are common during winter conditions.

10 Tips to Stay Safe During a Snowstorm

1. Always Be Prepared

Before the winter weather hits, be sure you get your vehicle serviced and have your tires checked. Make sure your tires are properly aired and have good tread. Ideally, you also have snow tires installed for extra traction.

Make sure you always have at least half a tank of gas in case you get caught in traffic or stuck on the side of the road. You should always have an emergency kit with three days of food, water, a warm blanket, and a safe heat source as well. Make sure your fluids are topped off and be sure your windshield fluid is always full. Road salt tends to increase your need during the winter for cleaning your windshield.

2. Avoid Driving If You Can

Over 2000 people die and 135,000 people are injured on icy and snowy roads every year. This means that you want to stay off the road if there’s a winter storm going on. If the trip isn’t mandatory, do yourself a favor and hold off until the storm passes.

If you really need to drive, know a few safe places to stop and wait the weather out if it gets too dangerous to drive in.

3. Remove Ice and Snow

If you must drive, make sure to dislodge all ice off your car. That sheen of ice on the top of your roof can blow off into the driver behind you and cause an accident. You also need to remove any ice or snow from your windshield, headlights, tail lights, and mirrors to make sure you have clear visibility when driving.

Remember that lights will not only help you see better, they will also help other drivers see you better.

4. Leave Early

Make sure to leave early. Driving in a winter storm is stressful enough; don’t worry about being late on top of that. You may find yourself stuck in traffic or a whiteout, and the last thing you’ll want to do is to try and weave around other cars because you left your home too late.

5. Drive Slow

If you have to drive in a winter storm, drive slower than you would in ideal weather conditions. Sometimes you will need to slow down to a crawl. Slower driving will improve your control and reaction time, and decrease the chance of being involved in a fatal accident.

Also, make sure to keep a safe driving distance from other drivers. Instead of the usual 3-second following distance, we recommend at least five seconds in winter conditions. This will allow you more time to stop should something unforeseen happen.

6. Make Sure You are Visible

Always keep your headlights on. As stated earlier, they will help other drivers see you as well as increase your visibility. However, remember that high beam headlights aren’t necessarily better than low beams. In bad weather conditions such as snowstorms, high beams can actually reduce your visibility.

If visibility gets very low, you can use your emergency lights to help other drivers see you. Have reflective emergency road markers in case you are forced to pull to the side of the road.

7. Go Gentle on Your Brakes

In bad conditions, you’ll want to go easy on your brakes. Slamming your brakes, in any winter situation, can cause your tires to lose traction and result in your vehicle skidding. Try to brake gently or simply take your foot off the gas pedal so your vehicle reduces speed safely (depending on the situation). It can be difficult to regain control because you often instinctively want to do the wrong things like slam on your brakes.

8. Don’t Use Cruise Control

Cruise control is not meant to be used in poor weather conditions such as winter storms, ice, fog, or even in heavy traffic. Basically, any situation where the driving can be unpredictable. These are situations where you need to adapt your driving and stay extremely focused so you can quickly react to potential hazards.

9. Be Mindful of Other Drivers

Don’t expect other drivers to drive responsibly. Give other drivers plenty of space to make sure you won’t be affected by their mistakes. If someone is tailgating you, ignore them and continue driving at a safe speed. Remember that you’re the one who is doing the right thing.

10. Don’t Rely on All-Wheel Drive

While it will help you gain traction when you accelerate or travel on hills, it will not help you when you are trying to brake.

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