When it comes to driving on snow and ice, the first thing you should always determine is whether driving is necessary. Driving in severe winter weather is inherently dangerous and should be avoided if possible. If you absolutely have to drive, the below tips can help you stay safe.
1. Know Your Drivetrain & Tires - Vehicles have different driving characteristics in winter weather based on their driven wheels. Be sure to learn the advantages and nuances of each drivetrain Front Wheel Drive, Rear Wheel Drive, All Wheel Drive and 4 Wheel Drive. Remember, a good set of winter tires will allow your vehicle to accelerate, brake and steer more predictably and safely in snow and ice compared to all-season tires.
2. Test the Road Conditions - Keep in mind conditions often change quickly and sometimes colder conditions can permit safer driving than when temperatures are closer to the freezing point. Whether it is your first time driving in snow or you are a veteran of wintry roads, determining current conditions will help you know what to expect on your drive. Find an empty stretch of road to test braking, acceleration and steering inputs to get a feel for winter driving conditions.
3. Accelerating and Braking on Snow and Ice - Always reduce speed significantly when driving on snow-covered roads. Leave extra room for braking and have a following distance of 6-10 seconds instead of the typical 3-4 seconds. Apply and remove pressure to the brake and gas pedals as smoothly as possible. Drivers should be especially attentive to any signs of a loss of
traction while cornering, accelerating or braking. Braking- By constantly scanning the road and landscape ahead, you should reduce the need for sudden braking and allow ample planning for your next move. When braking on snow in modern cars, you may feel the anti-lock braking system (ABS) system pulsating in the pedal to prevent the brakes from locking up. Do not let up on the brakes and keep your foot firmly planted. Accelerating- Apply gentle pressure to the gas pedal and take extra time reaching a safe cruising speed. Placing too much pressure on the gas pedal may cause the driven wheels to lose traction and spin, which could in turn reduce your control of the vehicle.
4. Steering on Snow & Ice - Steering should be smooth and controlled when driving on snow and ice. Avoid quick movements of the steering wheel and know how to identify and correct both oversteer and understeer. A best practice when driving in winter weather or on dry roads is always to look in the direction you want to go.