Before you get in the driver's seat, review these tips on how to drive safely when the snow starts falling:
Preparing to Drive
- Clean the car. Wipe away ice and snow from your windows and windshield wipers.
- Check your fluids. Make sure that the windshield washer reservoir is filled with a freeze-resistant cleaning solution.
- Eliminate condensation. If you have condensation on the inside of your car, run the air conditioner and select the "fresh air" option.
- Turn on your lights. This will allow other drivers to see your vehicle more easily.
- Check your fuel level. Your gas tank should be at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
- Leave early to give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination. If your morning routine is already hurried, set your alarm clock for at least a half hour earlier.
- Drive slowly, even if your vehicle has good traction. Driving faster than everyone else will disrupt the flow of traffic.
- Give yourself plenty of time to stop. Leave three times more space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you than you would normally.
- Stay behind snow trucks. They have limited visibility, and the road ahead of them will be worse than the road behind.
Avoiding SkidsTo avoid skids, brake gently on snow and ice. If your wheels start to lock, ease up on the brake pedal.
Keep in mind that bridges, ramps and overpasses are likely to freeze first, so drive slowly in these areas.
Getting Out of a SkidIf your back wheels start to skid:
When steering, follow the direction of the skid. If the rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right. You may have to steer left and right a few times as the rear wheels change course.
If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes (ABS), keep your foot on the brake. If it doesn't, pump the pedal gently, then more rapidly as the vehicle starts to slow.
If your front wheels skid:
- Shift to neutral.
- Don't steer immediately. As the wheels skid, they will slow your vehicle and traction will return.
- Begin steering when you feel traction.
- Put the transmission in drive.
- Move the snow away from the tires. Turn your wheels from side to side, and touching the gas slightly, ease forward. Don't spin your wheels. You can also use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
- Rock back and forth. Shift from drive to reverse, moving forward and backward repeatedly. In some vehicles, this strategy can damage the transmission (check your owner's manual).
- Recover traction with sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt. Pour it in the path of the wheels.
Do you have any winter driving strategies that have worked for you?
Sources: New York State Driver's Manual, Edmunds.com