The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is to try not to drive at all. Don’t go out until the snow plows have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.
If you must drive in snowy conditions, make sure your car is prepared, and that you know how to handle road conditions.
A great tip is to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, so you’re familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner’s manual for tips specific to your vehicle.
Here’s how to drive safely on icy roads. Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you. Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake. Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists. Keep your lights and windshield clean. Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas.
Don’t assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads. If your rear wheels skid you can take your foot off the accelerator. If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.
If your front wheels skid, first take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately. As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.
If you get stuck, do not spin your wheels as this will only dig you in deeper. Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way. Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out. Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you’re in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.
Sources: National Safety Council, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Washington State Government Information & Services
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