How to Drive in Snowy Conditions

Three Methods:Driving in the SnowReacting During a SkidPreparing to Drive in the Snow

Driving in the snow can be a super stressful situation, with 17% of all weather-related vehicle crashes being caused by snowy conditions.[1] Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you have no other choice than to drive, even when it's snowing out. Luckily, with a little preparation and an understanding of your car and how snow affects the road, you can prevent yourself from getting into a crash and stay safe while driving in the snow.

Method 1
Driving in the Snow

  1. 1
    Accelerate, decelerate, and turn much slower than normal. When you're driving in snowy conditions, you should take your time because your vehicle may take longer to react than usual. Slowly applying the gas and gradually accelerating is the best way to gain traction when you lose traction in your rear tires.[2] While you're driving, decelerating abruptly or making sharp turns at a high rate of speed may cause you to lose control of your vehicle.
    • Try to maintain a speed of 45 mph (72 kilometers) or less.[3]
    • Anticipate times where you'll have to stop and decelerate slowly, far in advance of where you have to stop.[4]
    • Test your car's accelerating, braking, and turning abilities on a clear stretch of road before driving to your destination.
  2. 2
    Use your headlights. Test your lights before starting your trip in the snow. Make sure that they are visible from the outside and remove any of the built up snow that may be obscuring them. Use your lights during the daytime when it's snowing because visibility is worse for all drivers on the road.
    • Test your headlights and brake lights once a month to ensure that they are operational.[5]
  3. 3
    Accelerate steadily when going up hills and don't stop. Don't try to power quickly up a hill by slamming the gas pedal because it may cause a spinout. Try to gain momentum and use it to get up the hill. Don't stop while going up a hill because your car could get stuck in the snow.[6]
    • When you are coming up on a crest of a hill remember to decelerate steadily in advance. You don't want to go fast on a downward slope because you could lose control of your vehicle.[7]
  4. Image titled Drive in Snowy Conditions Step 10
    Increase your following distance from other vehicles. Following closely behind someone could cause an accident if you have to brake abruptly. Under snowy conditions, it's recommended you stay 100 feet (30 meters) behind the car in front of you.[8]
    • Pay close attention to the brake lights on the vehicle in front of you in case you have to come to a sudden stop.
  5. 5
    Stay alert and aware of your surroundings. While you should always be alert while you're driving, it's even more important to do so when driving in snowy conditions. Practice defensive driving and pay attention to other drivers on the road.
    • Other drivers may not have the same level of skill when it comes to driving in snow, so they may lose control of their vehicle and cause a collision with your car or truck.
    • Keep your radio turned down so you can hear if other cars are losing control or are honking their horns.[9]

Method 2
Reacting During a Skid

  1. Image titled Drive in Snowy Conditions Step 8
    Take your foot off the gas and the brake. When you first get into a skid, take your foot off of both of your vehicle's pedals.[10] Your first instinct may be to hit the brakes, but this may not always help you recover from a skid.
    • Slamming on the breaks could make your skid even worse.
  2. 2
    Accelerate slowly when fishtailing. Once you've taken your foot off both pedals, determine whether the back wheels have lost traction. If you are fishtailing, or the back of your car is sliding uncontrollably, this is called a loss of rear wheel traction. Gently accelerate to regain control of your car.[11] The goal is to regain traction on your rear wheels before you can start to decelerate.
    • This is also commonly referred to as oversteering.[12]
  3. 3
    Pump your brakes in a front wheel skid. If you are veering off into a direction and can't stop, it's most likely because you've lost front wheel traction on the road.[13] In this case, you should pump your brakes to regain control of your car, after you take your foot off of the gas pedal.
    • If you have anti-lock brakes, then you should apply steady pressure instead of tapping the brake. Check your owners manual for information on your car or truck.[14]
  4. 4
    Turn the wheel into the skid. Turn the wheel into the direction of the skid if you lose rear wheel traction. If it's skidding left, then your wheel left. If your rear wheels are skidding to the right, then turn right.[15]
    • Aim to stay on the road, but don't try to force the wheel or overcompensate.
  5. 5
    Slow down after skidding. Once you've regained control of your car after a skid, reduce your speed. The reason you went into a skid is either because your wheels have been worn down and no longer have traction on the road, or you were going too fast. To avoid an accident, and potentially hurting someone, slow down and stay alert.

Method 3
Preparing to Drive in the Snow

  1. Image titled Drive in Snowy Conditions Step 3
    Get the right tires for the snow. Equip your car's tires with chains or get snow tires and make sure to inflate them completely.[16] The tread on your tires should be at least a 6/32-inch deep tread. Summer tires don't typically have the tread that's required to keep your vehicle from skidding during snowy conditions, whereas snow tires come with a special rubber compound that grips to the road in the snow.[17]
    • If you are getting snow tires, make sure to that all four of your wheels are the same model.
    • Snow chains should only be used in emergency situations and when there is a full layer of snow or ice on the ground. Chains could damage your tires or the body of your vehicle.[18]
    • Read Install-Snow-Chains-on-Tires to learn how to attach chains to your tires.
  2. 2
    Clear your windows, lights, and mirrors of snow. To be fully aware of your surroundings while you drive, you need to have access to all the mirrors and windows in your car. Blind spots could cause an accident when merging or switching lanes. Lastly, ensure that you remove all snow from both your brake lights and headlights so that other cars can see you.
    • Make sure the car's exhaust pipe is clear of snow because it could create a buildup of carbon monoxide which could be fatal.[19]
  3. 3
    Test your windshield wipers and defrosters. Snow on the windshield while you drive could reduce your visibility. [20] Windshield wiper fluid will allow you to remove any ice that may be stuck on your windshield or frost that accumulates while you drive. Defrosters will also help you remove any initial snow and ice on your windows.[21]
    • There are windshield wiper blades that are designed for the snow and icy conditions. [22]
  4. 4
    Make sure your car is equipped for an emergency. Make sure that your car is ready to handle a trip in the snow and that you have the right equipment to deal with it. Bring things like blankets, a cell phone, scrapers, and shovels in case your car gets stuck in the snow. The more prepared you are, the less likely you'll have to wait for a tow truck or a plow to get you out of a bad situation.
    • Other things to bring include flares, jumper cables, sand to melt the snow, dry food, a first aid kit, and emergency tire sealant.[23]
  5. Image titled Drive in Snowy Conditions Step 1
    Determine if driving is worth it. The best way to avoid getting into an accident when it's snowy out is not to go out at all.[24] Determine if driving is necessary. If there is an official winter warning in your area, then try to stay home. Limit your driving in the snow to emergency situations.
    • Call your employer and tell them that you can't drive in the conditions because it's a threat to your safety, instead of trying to drive into work.
    • If you commute and get stuck in the snow at work, see if you can stay at a local hotel or motel instead of driving back home.

Things You'll Need

  • Warm clothes
  • Food & drink
  • Shovel

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Driving Techniques