driving-on-winter-road

Winter is in full force here in the Midwest, and as the snowstorms roll in, dangers on the road increase ten-fold. Depending on where you live, winters can be so mild you barely see any snow, or fierce enough that it seems like there’s a new storm burying your car with snow every week. No matter where you live, driving in winter comes with it’s own risks, so here are some winter driving tips to help you prepare and stay safe every time you hit the road.

Winter Preparation Tips

Preparation for winter is key to staying safe throughout the season. Between maintaining your vehicle and packing extra supplies for the cold and snowy conditions, there can be a lot that goes into preparing for the winter. However, without preparation all the winter driving tips in the world won’t help.

Take Care of Your Vehicle

Pre-Winter Oil Change

Along with regular oil changes, changing your oil in the late fall or right when it starts getting cold will help winterize your car. Your engine takes a beating during the colder months, and the older your oil the thicker it’s going to get once the temperature drops. Old oil in combination with the cold weather is only going to add more wear on your engine.

Battery Check

You should also ask your mechanic to check your battery and replace it if need be. The lower the temperature gets, the harder it is for your battery to hold a charge, so if it’s already holding too low of a charge there’s a good chance your car won’t want to start when it gets too cold.

Winter Maintenance

Be sure to also keep an eye on your tire pressure to make sure they’re not getting too low. It’s also a good idea to keep at least a half a tank of gas in your vehicle at all times. Don’t give your vehicle any reason not to start!

Pack a Winter Kit

Make sure you’re prepared for any situation with a designated winter kit in your vehicle. You can even put everything into a heavy-duty duffle or plastic tote so it’s easy to move and store once winter is over.

The most important items are going to be a window scraper, and a small shovel. Living in a colder climate will mean you’ll likely need both of these items regularly. Even if you live in a region where the winters are milder, if it can get below freezing, it’ll be cold enough for your windows to frost over. Don’t be the person scraping off their windshield with a spatula…

Winter Essentials to Keep in Your Car

Bonus Tip:

THINGS LIKE SPATULAS, REGULAR SNOW SHOVELS, OR MACHETES (SERIOUSLY?!) ARE NOT DESIGNED TO BE USED ON GLASS AND CAN EASILY SCRATCH OR CHIP YOUR WINDSHIELD. WINDOW SCRAPERS COME IN ALL SORTS OF SHAPES AND SIZES TO WORK FOR YOUR VEHICLE, SO JUST USE THEM!

In addition to a small shovel, a small bag of sand, kitty litter, or another abrasive material is necessary if your car gets stuck in snow and your tires can’t get a grip. Pouring some  litter or sand behind and in front of the wheels will give them something to grip onto and give you enough momentum to get moving again.

Vehicle Emergency Kit

We never think we’ll be the ones stuck on the side of the road in a snowbank or with a broken-down car in the middle of winter, but it can happen. While you should always keep an emergency kit in your vehicle, it can be a matter of life or death in the winter.

An emergency pack should be designed to keep you warm and safe in your car when you are stuck and waiting for help. Here are a few items AAA suggests you include in your pack:

  • Warm clothes
  • A blanket (I always keep a regular blanket and a thermal blanket in my car)
  • Phone charger
  • Food and water
  • Bright or reflective cloth to tie to your antenna and site mirrors
  • Flashlight

In addition to these, I keep a few disposable hand warmers in my pack just to give me another source of warmth if it’s needed. When you’re stuck in your car you don’t want to keep it running for very long so you don’t risk CO2 or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Remember: DO NOT leave your car unless you absolutely need to. Emergency crews will be looking for stranded vehicles, and it’ll be easier to find you if you stay with your car. Your vehicle will also provide some shelter from the cold, and will keep you safe longer than if you tried to get to help on foot.

8 Winter Driving Tips

Okay. You got a tune up, filled your tires, and packed the supplies you need into your vehicle. You’re officially prepared for winter, so bring it on, right?

Not quite.

Driving on snow and ice is a whole other experience, so there are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Don’t Drive

It seems counter productive to make one of the first winter driving tips to not drive at all, but it’s one of the most important things you could do. When it’s snowing out, the roads are icy, or conditions are otherwise nasty, it’s best to just not get on the roads to begin with.

If you can avoid driving on slick winter roads, that the best thing to do.

2. Take it Slow

Seriously… Take. It. Slow!

Just because you have a four-wheel drive SUV or vehicle capable of off-roading does not mean you can speed down snowy roads without a problem. No matter how great your tires are or how well your vehicle handles, snow and ice make roads unpredictable. You will have a much harder time controlling your vehicle when you hit a slick spot if you’re going too fast.

Going slow also means you should accelerate and decelerate slowly. Ease your foot on and off the pedals, otherwise your tires will be more prone to slipping.

3. No Cruise Control

Winter driving requires you to have as much control over your vehicle as possible. You never know when you might need to slow down or get around an obstacle, so cruise control is at best a hassle and at worst a huge danger in snow.

4. Increase Following Distance

Snowy and icy roads make stopping much harder, so DO NOT follow behind other drivers too close. The standard following distance in good conditions is two car lengths between you and the car in front of you. When there’s snow on the road, you should increase that to at least three car lengths to give you extra stopping space.

5. Don’t Stop

Anyone who has driven on poorly plowed roads will tell you that coming to a full stop will almost guarantee you get stuck. The momentum of your moving vehicle helps it to keep going on slick roads, and helps your tires maintain a grip. If you come to a complete stop, it’s much more likely that your tires will slip when you try to get going again and keep you from going anywhere.

This does not mean to run stop signs and red lights in the name of not getting stuck. Just go slow, keep a long following distance, and brake slowly so you can avoid fully stopping as much as possible.

If you do need to stop, just be sure to press the accelerator very slowly. Too much torque on your tires will keep them from gripping, and they’ll just spin in place.

6. Momentum is Everything

Typically, in areas that get a lot of snow throughout the winter, hills and highways are two of the first types of roads to be plowed. That being said, hills are still a major hazard when there’s snow on the road.

Many people think that just pressing harder on the gas will give their vehicle the power it needs to get up a hill. Not true! That’s more likely to make your wheels lose traction, and before you know it your gunning your engine but not moving an inch.

When coming up to hills, get as much momentum as you safely can, and let that momentum carry you up the hill. Keep an even pressure on the gas so you don’t start sliding, and slow down only once you’re approaching the top. Never stop on a snowy hill if you possibly can. You won’t get moving again unless it’s to go down the hill.

7. Turn on Your Headlights!

You know how everything looks a little fuzzy and blurred when it’s snowing out? Your car looks that way too and is very hard for other drivers to see, especially if you have a darker or neutral colored vehicle.

Turn on your headlights, even if it’s daytime, so other drivers can see you. The less you blend into the gray background of a snowy day, the better.

8. Watch Out for Snowplows

Finally, the last of our winter driving tips: be extra careful around snowplows. Like semis and other big trucks, they have much wider blind spots, and the snow only makes it worse. Give plows a wide cushion of space so they can do their job.

Because plows are clearing the road, there is usually a lot of snow flying around them. All that snow can cut down visibility when driving next to them. However, the road right behind a working snowplow is going to be clearer and safer to drive on. If you can, try to stay a safe distance behind plows rather than passing them.

Final Thoughts

Just like any other time of year, it’s important to know how to drive safe, and following these winter driving tips will help you do just that! It takes a little more practice to develop your winter driving skills, but it’s time well spent if it means you’re safer on the road.

Remember to give yourself lots of extra time to get where you need to go and drive slowly. Even if you find you’re running late, don’t rush! It’s better to be late than to be stuck in a ditch or worse.

Finally, if you’re ever not comfortable driving on icy or snow-covered roads, don’t. Stay home and stay safe.

Disclaimer: Use at Your Own Risk 

The information provided in all blog articles is for educational purposes only. Pass Drivers Ed is not a licensed automotive expert, and any information regarding automotive repairs or maintenance should not be taken as professional automotive advice. Pass Drivers Ed is not responsible for any damages or injuries resulting in following the information provided.

Winter is in full force here in the Midwest, and as the snowstorms roll in, dangers on the road increase ten-fold. Depending on where you live, winters can be so mild you barely see any snow, or fierce enough that it seems like there’s a new storm burying your car with snow every week. No matter where you live, driving in winter comes with it’s own risks, so here are some winter driving tips to help you prepare and stay safe every time you hit the road.

Winter Preparation Tips

Preparation for winter is key to staying safe throughout the season. Between maintaining your vehicle and packing extra supplies for the cold and snowy conditions, there can be a lot that goes into preparing for the winter. However, without preparation all the winter driving tips in the world won’t help.

Take Care of Your Vehicle

Pre-Winter Oil Change

Along with regular oil changes, changing your oil in the late fall or right when it starts getting cold will help winterize your car. Your engine takes a beating during the colder months, and the older your oil the thicker it’s going to get once the temperature drops. Old oil in combination with the cold weather is only going to add more wear on your engine.

Battery Check

You should also ask your mechanic to check your battery and replace it if need be. The lower the temperature gets, the harder it is for your battery to hold a charge, so if it’s already holding too low of a charge there’s a good chance your car won’t want to start when it gets too cold.

Winter Maintenance

Be sure to also keep an eye on your tire pressure to make sure they’re not getting too low. It’s also a good idea to keep at least a half a tank of gas in your vehicle at all times. Don’t give your vehicle any reason not to start!

Pack a Winter Kit

Make sure you’re prepared for any situation with a designated winter kit in your vehicle. You can even put everything into a heavy-duty duffle or plastic tote so it’s easy to move and store once winter is over.

The most important items are going to be a window scraper, and a small shovel. Living in a colder climate will mean you’ll likely need both of these items regularly. Even if you live in a region where the winters are milder, if it can get below freezing, it’ll be cold enough for your windows to frost over. Don’t be the person scraping off their windshield with a spatula…

Winter Essentials to Keep in Your Car

Bonus Tip:

THINGS LIKE SPATULAS, REGULAR SNOW SHOVELS, OR MACHETES (SERIOUSLY?!) ARE NOT DESIGNED TO BE USED ON GLASS AND CAN EASILY SCRATCH OR CHIP YOUR WINDSHIELD. WINDOW SCRAPERS COME IN ALL SORTS OF SHAPES AND SIZES TO WORK FOR YOUR VEHICLE, SO JUST USE THEM!

In addition to a small shovel, a small bag of sand, kitty litter, or another abrasive material is necessary if your car gets stuck in snow and your tires can’t get a grip. Pouring some  litter or sand behind and in front of the wheels will give them something to grip onto and give you enough momentum to get moving again.

Vehicle Emergency Kit

We never think we’ll be the ones stuck on the side of the road in a snowbank or with a broken-down car in the middle of winter, but it can happen. While you should always keep an emergency kit in your vehicle, it can be a matter of life or death in the winter.

An emergency pack should be designed to keep you warm and safe in your car when you are stuck and waiting for help. Here are a few items AAA suggests you include in your pack:

  • Warm clothes
  • A blanket (I always keep a regular blanket and a thermal blanket in my car)
  • Phone charger
  • Food and water
  • Bright or reflective cloth to tie to your antenna and site mirrors
  • Flashlight

In addition to these, I keep a few disposable hand warmers in my pack just to give me another source of warmth if it’s needed. When you’re stuck in your car you don’t want to keep it running for very long so you don’t risk CO2 or carbon monoxide poisoning.

Remember: DO NOT leave your car unless you absolutely need to. Emergency crews will be looking for stranded vehicles, and it’ll be easier to find you if you stay with your car. Your vehicle will also provide some shelter from the cold, and will keep you safe longer than if you tried to get to help on foot.

8 Winter Driving Tips

Okay. You got a tune up, filled your tires, and packed the supplies you need into your vehicle. You’re officially prepared for winter, so bring it on, right?

Not quite.

Driving on snow and ice is a whole other experience, so there are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Don’t Drive

It seems counter productive to make one of the first winter driving tips to not drive at all, but it’s one of the most important things you could do. When it’s snowing out, the roads are icy, or conditions are otherwise nasty, it’s best to just not get on the roads to begin with.

If you can avoid driving on slick winter roads, that the best thing to do.

2. Take it Slow

Seriously… Take. It. Slow!

Just because you have a four-wheel drive SUV or vehicle capable of off-roading does not mean you can speed down snowy roads without a problem. No matter how great your tires are or how well your vehicle handles, snow and ice make roads unpredictable. You will have a much harder time controlling your vehicle when you hit a slick spot if you’re going too fast.

Going slow also means you should accelerate and decelerate slowly. Ease your foot on and off the pedals, otherwise your tires will be more prone to slipping.

3. No Cruise Control

Winter driving requires you to have as much control over your vehicle as possible. You never know when you might need to slow down or get around an obstacle, so cruise control is at best a hassle and at worst a huge danger in snow.

4. Increase Following Distance

Snowy and icy roads make stopping much harder, so DO NOT follow behind other drivers too close. The standard following distance in good conditions is two car lengths between you and the car in front of you. When there’s snow on the road, you should increase that to at least three car lengths to give you extra stopping space.

5. Don’t Stop

Anyone who has driven on poorly plowed roads will tell you that coming to a full stop will almost guarantee you get stuck. The momentum of your moving vehicle helps it to keep going on slick roads, and helps your tires maintain a grip. If you come to a complete stop, it’s much more likely that your tires will slip when you try to get going again and keep you from going anywhere.

This does not mean to run stop signs and red lights in the name of not getting stuck. Just go slow, keep a long following distance, and brake slowly so you can avoid fully stopping as much as possible.

If you do need to stop, just be sure to press the accelerator very slowly. Too much torque on your tires will keep them from gripping, and they’ll just spin in place.

6. Momentum is Everything

Typically, in areas that get a lot of snow throughout the winter, hills and highways are two of the first types of roads to be plowed. That being said, hills are still a major hazard when there’s snow on the road.

Many people think that just pressing harder on the gas will give their vehicle the power it needs to get up a hill. Not true! That’s more likely to make your wheels lose traction, and before you know it your gunning your engine but not moving an inch.

When coming up to hills, get as much momentum as you safely can, and let that momentum carry you up the hill. Keep an even pressure on the gas so you don’t start sliding, and slow down only once you’re approaching the top. Never stop on a snowy hill if you possibly can. You won’t get moving again unless it’s to go down the hill.

7. Turn on Your Headlights!

You know how everything looks a little fuzzy and blurred when it’s snowing out? Your car looks that way too and is very hard for other drivers to see, especially if you have a darker or neutral colored vehicle.

Turn on your headlights, even if it’s daytime, so other drivers can see you. The less you blend into the gray background of a snowy day, the better.

8. Watch Out for Snowplows

Finally, the last of our winter driving tips: be extra careful around snowplows. Like semis and other big trucks, they have much wider blind spots, and the snow only makes it worse. Give plows a wide cushion of space so they can do their job.

Because plows are clearing the road, there is usually a lot of snow flying around them. All that snow can cut down visibility when driving next to them. However, the road right behind a working snowplow is going to be clearer and safer to drive on. If you can, try to stay a safe distance behind plows rather than passing them.

Final Thoughts

Just like any other time of year, it’s important to know how to drive safe, and following these winter driving tips will help you do just that! It takes a little more practice to develop your winter driving skills, but it’s time well spent if it means you’re safer on the road.

Remember to give yourself lots of extra time to get where you need to go and drive slowly. Even if you find you’re running late, don’t rush! It’s better to be late than to be stuck in a ditch or worse.

Finally, if you’re ever not comfortable driving on icy or snow-covered roads, don’t. Stay home and stay safe.

Disclaimer: Use at Your Own Risk 

The information provided in all blog articles is for educational purposes only. Pass Drivers Ed is not a licensed automotive expert, and any information regarding automotive repairs or maintenance should not be taken as professional automotive advice. Pass Drivers Ed is not responsible for any damages or injuries resulting in following the information provided.

Start Learning to Drive Today

Give us a call to find out which online course is best for you!

  • 1-888-206-1328

Get Our Latest Driving Tips

Follow us on social media to get our latest tips and drivers ed tools.