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How to drive in snow and ice

All drivers should be educated on how to drive in the snow
All drivers should be educated on how to drive in the snow
Darren McCollester, Getty Images

Driving in snow or ice can be very frightening. You should avoid going out in dangerous road conditions if at all possible, but if you must drive during snow or freezing rain, learning some winter weather safety tips can help you get to your destination safely.


If you’re driving and your car begins to slide, don’t panic. Take your foot off the accelerator.

If it is your rear wheels that have slipped, gently turn the wheel in the direction the wheels are going. For instance, if your rear wheels slide off to the left, pulling the steering wheel to the left will line up your front wheels with your back wheels. Once your car starts moving in the direction of the skid, you can slowly apply pressure to the anti-lock brakes and turn the wheel slightly back and forth if you need to straighten out the car. If your car does not have anti-lock brakes, gently pump the brakes to slow down.

If your front wheels skid when driving in the snow, it can be even more scary because you may feel like the car is going to slide off the road. Again, don’t panic. Remain calm, take your foot off the accelerator, and let your vehicle slide for a moment and slow down before steering back in the direction you intended to go. Once you’ve straightened out the car, accelerate very slowly so as not to lose the traction you’ve gained.

Stoplights, intersections and hills

When approaching a stoplight, intersection, or going downhill, remember that it takes much longer to stop if you’re driving in snow or ice.

Make sure you stay several car lengths behind the driver in front of you, and decelerate slowly.

To get up a hill, get some movement going before you reach the hill. This will help the car have a kind of “running start”, so that you don’t have to accelerate on the hill. Applying too much pressure to the gas pedal while on the hill can cause you to spin out.

Bridges, overpasses, and curves

If you have to cross a bridge or overpass during the winter, slow down before you approach. Bridges and overpasses are more likely to have spots of ice, and these are the worst places to skid. Approach with caution and follow through at a slow pace.

Slow down before approaching a curve as well. Icy road conditions make it even harder to stay in the lane and handle the curve.

General driving tips

In addition to accelerating and decelerating slowly, follow these tips for safe driving:

Keep your headlights on, so other drivers can see you approaching.

Don’t use cruise control or overdrive in icy conditions.

Never pass a snow plow as the road in front of them may not be clear, and the driver of the snow plow may not see you trying to pass due to the poor visibility.

Don’t be overconfident. No matter what type of vehicle you drive or how well you’ve maintained your vehicle, any vehicle can experience difficulty handling snow-covered or icy roads.

Getting stuck in the snow

If your vehicle does slide and you get stuck, or you just get snowed into a parking spot, try turning your wheels from left to right and right to left. This will help clear a spot around your tires.

Touch the accelerator very gently. If your wheels begin to spin, let off the gas immediately.

Use cat litter, sand, salt or another gritty substance under your tires. This will help your wheels get enough traction to pull the vehicle out.

Memorizing these basic tips for driving in winter weather can help keep you safe if you have to drive when it’s snowing, but no matter how much knowledge you have, you should still allow yourself extra time to travel and make sure someone knows the route you’re taking in case you should encounter trouble along the way.

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