How to Drive in the Snow

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Winter driving in the snow (Photo: @malisunshine via Twenty20)
Driving in the snow is a bit of a scary and intimidating situation. Even cars that are designed to drive well in the winter feel a little hairy when the snow starts to fall and the ice shows up on roads. For maximum safety and comfort, it’s important to learn how to drive in snow.
We should start with the obvious. The safest way is to not drive at all. Once the cold months come around, try to limit how often you’re driving. Do fewer, larger shopping trips, and take subways and trains if possible. The safest solution is to simply not get behind the wheel.
Of course, that’s not always an option. Sometimes you need to get in the driver’s seat. When that time comes, make sure your car is properly winterized, and follow these tips for how to drive in the snow.

Go Slowly

Driving slowly is safer, no matter what the weather conditions are. But it’s especially safer when the roads are cold and icy. The faster you drive, the more likely you are to lose traction. And the faster you drive, the harder you’ll need to brake, which is a recipe for sliding and losing control.
Always try to avoid driving dangerously slow, but make sure to go slow enough that your car feels fully in control.

Keep a Steady Brake

When road conditions don’t feel safe, it’s natural to start to ride the brake pedal. Ironically, braking can be one of the most dangerous things when you’re driving in the snow, because it can take your traction away and cause the car to slide. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use the brake pedal, but there are two things you should do.
First, keep your heel on the floor of your car so that you can use a very steady foot to deploy the brake smoothly and consistently. Tapping the brake pedal or hitting it hard can cause your car to go straight into a slide.
Second, when possible, start slowing your car down by taking your foot off the gas before you start braking. Let the car slow itself down naturally before introducing the brakes.

Exercise Driving Caution

Just like driving slowly, this one sounds obvious. However, everyone needs a reminder from time to time.
When it’s snowy or icy it’s doubly important to practice safe driving techniques. Don’t tailgate the car in front of you. Don’t test the limits of your car around turns. Don’t drive after drinking alcohol. Don’t wait until the last possible moment to stop for a light or stop sign.
You should be doing these things anyway, but they become even more important when the roads are dangerous.

Avoid Stopping, When Possible

One area where your car really struggles to find traction in the snow is when starting from a stop. When your wheels first start moving after being stopped, they often spin. One thing you can do to minimize this is avoid stopping. If you see a stop light, start to slow down ahead of time, and see if you can maintain a slow pace until the light turns green.
Don’t ever avoid stopping when it’s dangerous to do so. But when possible, even driving at 2 mph is safer than starting from a complete stop.

Look Far Down the Road

It’s always a good idea to look far down the road through a clean windshield when you’re driving. It will make you smoother and safer behind the wheel. And it’s vital when there’s snow on the road.
If you look where you want to go rather than where you are, you’ll naturally take in the road in front of you and drive smoothly. If you look directly in front of you, you’re more likely to make sharp adjustments with the steering wheel or brakes, and that’s the worst thing you can do when it’s snowy or icy.
So always keep your eyes far down the road, on the place where you want to end up.

Don’t Panic If You Briefly Slide

It’s easier said than done, but try to avoid panicking if you feel your car losing control. If you drive on snow and ice you’ll occasionally lose traction for a second here or there. The key is to remain calm and in control.
The most important thing to do is not make any sharp movements. Avoid hitting the brakes or gas hard, or making an aggressive turn. If you’re driving a front wheel drive car in snow, and you feel it lose traction just let your foot off the gas, and don’t move the steering wheel. As soon as you feel the traction return, move the steering wheel to where you want to go.
If you’re driving a rear wheel drive car in snow, let your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction of where the rear tires are sliding. Once the car catches, return the steering wheel to its normal position.
Regardless of what type of car you have, avoid braking when you feel your car losing traction, as that will just make it slide more.
With these tips you’re all set to safely drive in the snow.