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7 winter driving tactics

Outsmart (and out-plan) anything that colder months throw at you with solutions to some common wind, snow, ice and freezing-temperature scenarios.

Snow and ice covered road

Preparation is key to driving, but it’s particularly important if you’re headed out in cold-weather months. Even with the safest driving techniques, the most well-prepared driver sometimes runs into inclement weather. How should you handle it when your drive time intersects with winter weather? Learn from these seven scenarios.

The windshield ices up while you’re driving

Before you hit the road this winter, be sure your defrost system is fully functional. If you find that it is having a hard time keeping up in icy conditions, find a safe spot out of traffic to pull over. While your vehicle is parked but running, manually scrape the ice from your windshield; repeat as necessary. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, consult your mechanic to ensure that the defrost system is fully functional and that your wiper fluid includes a de-icing ingredient.

You need to brake safely in snowy or icy weather

First, avoid the impulse to firmly push the brake pedal. Instead, ease off the accelerator, slowly tap the brakes to slow momentum and eventually come to a complete stop. In addition, while you’re driving, double the usual distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you to about eight seconds and decrease your speed by five to 10 miles per hour.

Nearby drivers start spinning out

If you observe nearby drivers losing control of their vehicles, there is a good chance you could, too. Two actions will help. First, slow down and put as much distance as possible between your vehicle and other vehicles, in case you spin out or someone else loses control. If your vehicle begins to skid, do not overcorrect. Instead, keep your foot off the brake and steer into the direction of the skid until you regain control of the vehicle. More important, if you can, pull off to a rest stop or other parking area until you can make a better judgement about the condition of the roads.

Drifting snow makes road lines less visible

Getting off the road until conditions improve should be your first goal. Until you can do that, turn your headlights on low, which will increase your visibility to others, and try to follow in other drivers’ tracks. If possible, pull over safely or exit if possible, turn your hazards on and wait to resume your drive until the wind and snow decrease. Make sure you have a well-stocked emergency kit that’s easily accessible.

You’ve got several miles left in your commute and the weather continues to worsen

If you feel that you can’t safely drive any further, pull off the road out of traffic. Contact the local authorities for help getting the weather forecast, deciding on alternate routes or getting to a safe place until weather conditions improve. If the forecast shows no signs of improving, try to find a spot to stay put for an hour or two. In addition, when choosing alternate routes, try to avoid bridges and highway overpasses, which tend to accumulate ice more quickly.

Rain turns to ice

Once temperatures hit the mid-30s or below, freezing rain can turn to ice and may create black ice, which is often invisible to drivers. Watch the road and other drivers carefully for clues about conditions. When driving over icy patches, take your foot off the accelerator, avoid braking and straighten your steering wheel.

You’re driving behind a snowplow

In the winter, passing transportation department equipment is dangerous. Slow to increase the distance between the truck and your vehicle and remember that many snowplow drivers have limited visibility when it comes to seeing vehicles that are behind or to the side of them.


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