Safe Travels: Essential Tips for Winter Driving

Claire Grulick
| January 3, 2024 | 4 Minute Read
Young Boy Gives a Push to his Brother's Toy Car Stuck in the Snow Adobe

The winter season is still in full force, so it's important to keep your car prepared for driving in snowy, icy and other challenging weather conditions. Snowy roads, icy surfaces and sleet can all pose a threat to your travels; however, with the right preparations, you can make it to your destination safely. In this article, we'll discuss some tips for driving in various winter conditions and how to navigate them.

Preparing your car

To start, make sure to have your car serviced before winter arrives. This includes checking your brakes and battery, as well as having your tires inspected. For all your cold weather maintenance needs, check out our Winter Car Care Checklist!

It's recommended to switch your tires to specific ones that are equipped to handle the challenges of snow and ice. These winter tires are designed with deeper treads and softer rubber to provide better traction in snowy conditions. Consider investing in winter driving tires if you live in an area with consistently harsh winters. 

In addition to having the right tires, it's also important to have a winter emergency kit in your car. This should include items such as a snow shovel, ice scraper, blankets, jumper cables and non-perishable snacks. You never know when you might encounter an unexpected delay or get stuck in a snowy situation. Having these essential items on hand can make a big difference in your safety and comfort. 

Tips for driving in the snow

When driving in the snow, it's important to slow down and maintain a safe speed. Snowy roads can be slippery, so increase braking distances and give yourself extra time to come to a complete stop. Avoid sudden movements such as hard braking or sharp turns. It's also essential to keep a safe distance from other vehicles as when visibility is reduced.

In addition, make sure your headlights and taillights are working properly. Snowy conditions can make it difficult for other drivers to see you, so having fully functional lights is crucial for safety.  Using your low beams can also help improve visibility in heavy snowfall.

Navigating icy roads

Icy roads can be particularly treacherous, as they often appear clear and may not seem hazardous at first glance. However, even a thin layer of ice can cause your car to lose traction and spin out. If you encounter icy roads, it's important to reduce your speed significantly and avoid making any sudden movements. Make sure to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and stay alert for any potential hazards.

Other tips for winter driving

In addition to the tips mentioned above, here are a few more things to keep in mind when driving in winter conditions:

  • Avoid using cruise control on snowy or icy roads. This feature can cause your vehicle to lose traction and make it difficult to maintain control.
  • Review how to properly brake your car in snow or ice. When stopping, be sure to gradually apply light, steady pressure on the brake pedal to reduce or maintain the right speed for your situation. 
  • Ease into turns in snowy or icy conditions and know how to steer if your car begins to spin or skid.
  • Before embarking on a trip, make sure to check the weather and road conditions. If conditions are too hazardous, consider postponing your travel plans.
  • Keep an eye out for black ice, which is transparent and hard to see but can be extremely slippery.
Man standing by car in winter conditions on the phone calling for help, waiting for breakdown service car, tow truck. Adobe

In case of an emergency

Despite all precautions, winter driving can sometimes bring unexpected challenges. AAA Members enjoy peace of mind knowing they have access to reliable roadside assistance services. In case of an emergency, remember to remain calm. Keep your emergency kit accessible and utilize helpful tools like kitty litter or sand to improve traction if your car gets stuck. In case of an emergency, you can call 1-800-AAA-HELP (1-800-222-4357) or use the AAA Mobile app.

Winter driving can be intimidating, but with the right preparations and caution, you can navigate through it safely. Making sure your car is in top condition, having the right tires and equipment, and following safe driving practices are all crucial for a successful winter drive. Stay alert, slow down and be prepared for any potential hazards that may come your way. Safe travels!

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