In winter, a snowstorm could be just around the corner. While it’s best to enjoy the flurries with a warm cup of cocoa from the comfort of your living room, sometimes you have no choice but to brave the elements. If you find yourself driving in the snow—especially on long road trips during the holidays—keep these tips in mind to stay safe on the road. You got this!
First Things First
Before you take off on the open road, get a courtesy vehicle check at Tires Plus to ensure your tires are properly inflated, your brakes are in tip-top shape, and everything else is good to go. If your tires need to be replaced, the pros at Tires Plus can set you up with new winter tires or tires for year-round driving. Tires with the right amount of tread can dramatically improve your traction on snowy roads.
9 Snow Driving Tips
Tip #1: Improve your visibility.
Check your windshield wipers to make sure they’re working well, and clean your windshield and windows to improve your visibility in the snow. You might also want to prep some DIY windshield defroster spray to use down the road, too!
Tip #2: Fill up.
Keep the gas tank at least half full. This prevents freezing of your gas line and lessens the chance that you’ll be stranded because you’ve run out of fuel.
Tip #3: Stock the essentials.
Stock your car with the winter essentials. These include:
- Ice scraper
- Miniature snow shovel
- Water bottles
- Kitty litter or sand (to provide traction)
- Hand-crank radio
- Booster cables
- Portable phone charger
- First aid kit
- Emergency flares
Tip #4: Check the forecast.
Check the weather forecast to see what the conditions will be along your route.
Weather events cause more than one million crashes every year on average in the United States, reports the U.S. Department of Transportation.
If heavy snowfall is expected, you might want to rethink your travel plans. If you've already hit the road, check out Weather on Wheels. It's a smartphone app that helps you see forecasts at a glance along your entire route.
Tip #5: Get some rest.
Get plenty of rest before you hit the road. Drowsy driving causes a lot of car crashes, especially on snow-slickened roads. In fact, an estimated 5,000 people died in 2015 in crashes involving drowsy driving, according to a Governors Highway Safety Association report.
Tip #6: Take your time.
In snowy conditions, you’ll want to drive as slowly as you can—no speeding!—so that you can act quickly but carefully to avoid trouble. Stopping or passing in a hurry in a flurry can cause an accident.
Tip #7: Be smooth.
Apply the brakes and the gas pedal gently, and keep a steady but loose grip on the steering wheel. If nothing else, remember to avoid slamming on the brakes—that can cause you to skid into a ditch or another car. If you’re skidding, ease up on the accelerator to slow down the car, then apply the brakes either steadily (with anti-lock brakes) or in a pumping motion (without anti-lock brakes).
Tip #8: Keep your distance.
Keep at least eight to ten seconds of space between you and the car in front of you, notes Drive & Stay Alive. Traveling at 65 MPH, eight seconds of distance is about the length of two football fields. This sounds like quite a bit of space, we know, but it will give you more breathing room if you need to stop suddenly. Under normal circumstances, the recommended distance between you and the car in front of you is three to five seconds, or about 300 feet when traveling at 65 MPH.
Tip #9: Stay in control.
Turn off cruise control so that you have better command of your vehicle. Sure, cruise control can help you avoid speeding tickets on a long stretch of road, but as Canada's Globe and Mail points out, "If your wheels lose traction on icy or wet roads and start to spin, the cruise control could keep you accelerating. And while you're sitting back with your foot off the pedal, you won't feel it."
By the time you realize that you're accelerating into a skid, it could be too late. Every second counts when driving in the snow. Leave cruise control off so you can react right away if you feel the wheels start to slip.
Stay one step ahead of winter road conditions with Tires Plus, your friendly neighbor who will offer advice, not force it. From tires to windshield wipers, we'll show you a few of your best options, so you can choose what's right for your winter road trip needs.