Long before the first snowfall, have an emergency kit, ice scraper, and salt or kitty litter in the trunk ready to go. Get a pre-winter safety inspection, including checking antifreeze levels, testing the battery, and ensuring your wipers and front and rear defoggers all work properly. Check that you still have good tire tread depth and proper pressure. Cold weather reduces tire pressure, so you may need to make adjustments for winter.
Keeping your momentum makes you less likely to get stuck.
If your vehicle has anti-lock brakes, brake with an even steady pressure. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes and you need to brake abruptly, you should pump the brakes quickly.
Giving it extra gas can make your wheels start spinning. Build up momentum approaching the hill and maintain a steady speed until the crest.
It doesn’t make your SUV invincible or unable to skid, and it definitely isn’t a license to travel at normal highway speeds on an icy or snowy road.
The urge to help is understandable, but unless the driver is in immediate danger parking on the side of the road can add to the hazards more than help. Other drivers are more likely to brake and skid if multiple cars are stopped on the side of an icy road and you can impede the plows from safely passing through. The best thing you can do is call 911 and let the professionals who are equipped to render aid safely handle it.
Completely scrape all windows for maximum visibility. Dig the ice and snow from the wipers and brush off your headlights and taillights. Protect drivers behind you from falling snow packs and ice by brushing accumulation from the roof.
Whether you are stopping, starting, or turning, everything takes longer on a slushy or icy road. Give yourself more time to maneuver by driving more slowly.
Gunning the gas or slamming on the brakes is more likely to set your wheels spinning.
You’ll need double or triple the usual distance to be able to safely stop.
An icy hill can be an insurmountable obstacle. You don’t want to find this out after you’ve already attempted to charge up it. Narrow roads or blind curves are even more hazardous when your traction is unpredictable.
Turn your wheels in the direction that the rear of your car is sliding. It helps to look with your eyes where you want the car to go, and turn the steering wheel in that direction. If you overcorrect and cause the car to slide in the other direction, you'll need to turn in the opposite direction.
Watch out for the aforementioned overly-confident SUV drivers. Pause an extra few seconds at stops signs or after the light turns green and make sure opposing traffic can come to a stop. Turn off any distractions inside your vehicle so you can focus entirely on the road ahead.
If you don’t absolutely have to go out before the roads are clear and salted, don’t. Even if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle with snow tires and extensive experience driving in the snow, it doesn’t mean everyone else on the road does. Keep a snow day stash of extra meal makings around and hunker down at home.
Visit AAA Exchange for more winter driving tips, videos, and illustrated guides. Stay safe on the roads this season!