Aceable is based out of Texas (a land without snowplows, tire chains, or snow tires), so “winter weather” usually means a light drizzle on a 45-degree day. We get used to driving habits that work with dry, sunny days. That’s why it’s important for us (and everyone!) to learn how to handle vehicles when the roadway is suddenly coated in ice and everyone else is still driving like it’s an average day. Check out our countdown of the most important tips when you’re driving in snowy weather.
If you’re about to embark on a journey through some nasty sleet or snow, communication is the key to safety. Take the extra time to tell someone where you’re going, what your general route will be, and what time you expect to arrive. A little more detailed than the requisite “Text me when you get there,” but it’s the safe way. If you lose signal or your cell phone battery dies and get stuck in a freak avalanche, at least someone will know to look for you with the traveler information you provided them.
4. Have an Emergency Kit
Your vehicle has a trunk, right? Dedicate a little space for a safe winter emergency kit just in case you get stranded in terrible weather. It should include a cell phone charger, blankets or warm clothing, a basic first-aid kit (plus any specific medications you or your family members might need), a shovel, an ice scraper for snow removal, and drinking water. Monopoly and Cheez-its are optional. It’s also a good idea to have the contact info for a service like AAA in case you need assistance getting your car unstuck or need a tow. We recommend having some kind of roadside assistance service like AAA for emergency situations.
3. Keep Up with Maintenance
There is never a convenient time for your car to break down, but you REALLY don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road during a snow storm. That’s why it’s important to take the extra time to make sure your preventive maintenance is up to date before winter hits. Make sure your brakes are working perfectly (bad brakes don’t stand a chance on icy roads) and check the tread and air pressure in your tires (Did you know that a tire gets lower air pressure when the temperature outside dips?). You’ll also want to make sure your coolant, oil, and gas levels are good to go and that your windshield defroster is working properly. And for the love of Ace, handle that check engine light that’s been staring you down! Also, make sure your windshield wipers are working properly to keep your windshield visibility nice and clear on the road. Fresh new wipers will effectively clear snow and ice from your windshield no matter how heavy it’s coming down.
If you live in a particularly cold area of the country that experiences a ton snowy road conditions, you might want to also consider winterizing your vehicle. Some tips are putting snow chains on your tires to increase traction or investing in snow tires, replacing your wipers with winter wipers, and adding sandbags to your trunk. The added weight over the rear tires will increase traction when cornering (and accelerating, if your car is rear-wheel-drive). If you’re going to use snow chains, make sure they meet any chain requirements set by your individual state.
2. Go Slow
The biggest threat to drivers on wet, icy, and snowy roads is the loss of traction. If you’re driving on a road covered with ice and snow at the same speed and carelessness that most drivers have on a sunny day, you’re going to skid. Luckily antilock brakes can help with skids, but you still need to be careful. Even if snowplows have come through and cleared the road for travelers, there might still be slick spots hiding on the road. Just slow down and keep your hands on the wheel at all times. Accelerate and apply brakes gradually to avoid losing traction and causing your tires to slide across lanes. Also, do one maneuver at a time. It’s more important than ever to reduce your speed THEN turn your steering wheel instead of braking while turning. Drive like a grandma. It’s fine. Roadway safety is so important.
Just like any other time you’re on the road, you’ll want to make sure you’re avoiding participating in distracted driving habits. Safe teen drivers don’t play like that and being a focused driver is crucial to vehicle safety and driving survival. Especially in bad weather conditions.
1. Stay home if Possible
And the number one way to stay safe during winter weather? Don’t drive at all! Seriously. Avoid the roads and leave your vehicle in the driveway to collect snow. If you don’t absolutely need to get somewhere, go ahead and make some hot chocolate and chill on the couch.
If you do have to drive on an icy road or you’re out in inclement weather conditions, just remember to follow these tips, winter driving is no joke. Take it slow, practice gradual braking, and stay safe out there!