Hot cocoa. Gingerbread houses. Carolers. Sledding. Snow. Ice. Salt. You guessed it – we’re talking winter. As someone who has lived in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic my entire life, I have certainly had my fair share of winters and have grown somewhat accustomed to driving in a little inclement weather. These winter driving tips are for those of you with little or no experience driving during winter weather conditions. You could be from an area where a foot of snow is considered a “light dusting.” Or you could be from an area where a little snow and ice causes the streets to look like a scene out of War of the Worlds. However, 70 percent of the nation’s roads will see at least five inches of snowfall this year. With this in mind, there are definitely a few safe driving tips that you should keep in mind as the temperature begins to drop and we move toward another winter.
Winter Driving Tips For New And Experienced Drivers
Winter Weather Is More Dangerous Than You May Think
I hate to start these winter driving tips on a somber note, but it’s worth cutting to the chase with some cold, hard stats. Annually, over 1,300 people are killed in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy, or icy pavement. Unfortunately, over 900 people are killed, and nearly 76,000 injured, in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet. Based on ten year averages from 2002-2012, there were 211,188 crashes on snow and sleet, 154,580 crashes on icy pavement, and 175,233 crashes on snow and slushy pavement EVERY YEAR. You can be the most experienced of drivers, but improper preparation and forgetting your winter safe driving tips can immediately put you in danger.
|Road Weather Conditions|
|Wet Pavement||959,760 crashes||17% of vehicle crashes||74% of weather-related crashes|
|384,032 persons injured||16% of crash injuries||80% of weather-related injuries|
|4,789 persons killed||13% of crash fatalities||77% of weather-related fatalities|
|Rain||595,900 crashes||11% of vehicle crashes||46% of weather-related crashes|
|245,446 persons injured||10% of crash injuries||52% of weather-related injuries|
|2.876 persons killed||8% of crash fatalities||46% of weather-related fatalities|
|Snow/Sleet||211,188 crashes||4% of vehicle crashes||17% of weather-related crashes|
|58,011 persons injured||3% of crash injuries||13% of weather-related injuries|
|769 persons killed||2% of crash fatalities||13% of weather-related fatalities|
|Icy Pavement||154,580 crashes||3% of vehicle crashes||12% of weather-related crashes|
|45,133 persons injured||2% of crash injuries||10% of weather-related injuries|
|580 persons killed||2% of crash fatalities||10% of weather-related fatalities|
|Snow/Slushy Pavement||175,233 crashes||3% of vehicle crashes||14% of weather-related crashes|
|43,503 persons injured||2% of crash injuries||10% of weather-related injuries|
|572 persons killed||2% of crash fatalities||10% of weather-related fatalities|
|Fog||31,385 crashes||1% of vehicle crashes||3% of weather-related crashes|
|11,812 persons injured||1% of crash injuries||3% of weather-related injuries|
|511 persons killed||2% of crash fatalities||9% of weather-related fatalities|
|Weather-Related *||1,311,970 crashes||23% of vehicle crashes|
|480,338 persons injured||20% of crash injuries|
|6,253 persons killed||17% of crash fatalities|
What Can You Do To Prepare For Winter Driving?
Be sure to have your car’s regular service completed before the winter season. When doing so, ensure that your tires are properly inflated. Tire pressure drops in cold weather, and low tire pressure jeopardizes your ability to handle your car properly. Also be sure to have a well-functioning battery in the car, and that all of your lights are working properly. Your windshield washer reservoir should also be full. If you take your car to your trusted auto mechanic and tell them that you would like to prepare your car for winter, they should know exactly what steps are necessary to prepare your vehicle for the harsh conditions that could potentially await.
A scraper and brush should be readily accessible in your car, along with a cell phone charger. You should always keep a disaster supplies kit in your trunk, in case of emergency. Warm blankets, sleeping bags, and clothing meant for cold weather should be kept in the vehicle as well. A first aid kit, jumper cables, a flashlight, flares, reflectorized triangles, water, and non-perishable, easy-to-open food could all be useful. You should also keep an emergency stash of kitty litter or sand, in case you are stuck and your wheels are spinning. A small shovel could also come in handy.
Always keep your gas tank full. This is one of the winter driving tips I used to give my truck driving students, especially before going over mountain passes. This will keep your fuel line from freezing, but will more importantly prove beneficial if you find yourself in an emergency situation. One of the biggest winter driving tips I give new students is to always be prepared for everything, including having a roadside emergency kit ready. If you can’t afford to purchase one or would simply rather make your own at home, check out the video below on how to make your own homemade emergency roadside kit.
Make Your Own Emergency Roadside Kit For Winter Weather Driving
Winter Driving Tips For When You Have No Choice But To Drive
You need to drive with caution while on the road. Posted speed limits essentially become irrelevant – and that should not be read as permission to speed up! Freeway speeds are reduced by 3 to 13 percent in light snow, and 5 to 40 percent in heavy snow. You need to reduce your speed, accelerating and decelerating slowly. Know when you leave that your trip will likely take longer than normal, and prepare accordingly. Brake gradually, leaving enough distance for both you and the car behind you to stop. Don’t be a hero – driving recklessly does nothing but put you and surrounding motorists in a high risk situation. Don’t feel obligated to keep up with the flow of traffic, and allow cars to pass you if necessary. It’s always important to never allow yourself to get bullied around on the road. These aren’t just tips I give for winter driving tips, but tips for everyday driving, too. Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface, such as roads covered with snow and ice, or roads that have been treated with salt or sand.
If an accident occurs and you become snow-bound off the road, stay with your vehicle. Remember the preparation kit you kept in the trunk? It was for this very instance. Do not try to walk through a severe storm – the odds of you being able to return and find your vehicle are very slim. Do not over-exert yourself trying to push your car back onto the road, and tie a bright colored cloth to your car as a distress signal. Be sure to keep the exhaust pipe clear if your car is running, or else you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.
Of all the winter driving tips I can give you, when push comes to shove, the biggest tip is to just stay home. If it is not absolutely necessary for you to go out, don’t. Driving in poor road conditions creates way too many unpredictable situations. If you must leave, be sure to familiarize yourself with your route, and give yourself plenty of time to arrive at your destination. It is also important to tell someone where you are going! And do not drive while fatigued or under the influence. While this should always be the case, it rings especially true when your level of focus will be even higher than normal when behind the wheel.
Winter Is Coming – Will You Be Ready?
Winter is just around the corner, if it has not already arrived at your doorstep. It certainly has in my neck of the woods. Prepare accordingly ahead of time. You never know what situation you may find yourself, and trying to prepare after the fact is a tad counterproductive. Remember these safe driving tips while taking the road this winter, and drive safely! Just keep telling yourself that April showers are right around the bend.
Page last updated on January 19, 2022