Severe Winter Driving Tips

The holiday season is upon us. That means more winter driving to visit friends and relatives, to take ski vacations, to attend holiday parties, and of course, to do your holiday shopping. Whether you live in snow prone areas or not, it's important to be aware of winter driving safety tips that will help to prevent accidents and keep your auto insurance rates from rising.

Safety Checklist Before You Leave the House

  • Check the road conditions. If you're simply running errands or taking a long-distance trip, if the weather is dropping below freezing, a storm is heading in, or the snow is falling, it's best to decide whether you should avoid winter driving all together. If you do hit the road and it's snowing, wait to leave until after snowplows have cleared the roads and highways.
  • Remember your cell phone charger. If you don't already have a car charger for your cell phone, this is a good time to get one. This will ensure you'll have the battery power to call emergency roadside assistance program that number into your cell phone) and a family member or friend in the event that something happens.
  • Make sure your car is prepared. If you've already gotten your car ready for winter driving, you should be set. If not, check out our safety tips for winterizing your car.
  • Pack an emergency kit. This includes all the things you'll need in the event of an accident, if you get stranded, or if you hit winter weather:
    • Ice scraper
    • Extra windshield wiper fluid
    • Reflective triangles or road flares
    • Inflated spare tire with jack and wrench
    • Tool kit, flashlight and batteries
    • Jumper cables
    • Shovel, along with a bag of salt or kitty litter for traction
    • Box with first aid kit, matches, candle, water, protein bars, dried fruits and nuts
    • Blankets, mittens, hats, and other warm clothing items

Safety Tips for Driving on Ice and Snow

  • Don't rush. Allowing plenty of time to get to where you need to go will enable you to drive slowly and safely.
  • WEAR YOUR SEATBELT and use your low beam lights, even in the daytime.
  • If you drive a four-wheel or all-wheel drive vehicle that allows you to maneuver better in the snow versus two-wheel drive vehicles, you still need to keep your speed at a safe limit.
  • Allow extra room to stop; at least three times the space you would allow under normal driving conditions.
  • When braking, have a light touch and avoid hitting your brakes too hard.
  • Avoid using cruise control or overdrive.
  • When driving on icy roads use low gears and keep your momentum on hills.
  • Take extra precautions when driving at night, when patches of black ice could throw your car into a tailspin unexpectedly. Black ice is commonly found on roads that are near bodies of water, including bridges and overpasses, where puddles of water and snow can freeze.

If Your Car Skids--Rear Tires

  • The second you feel your car skidding, take your foot off the accelerator.
  • Steer in the direction your rear wheels skidding, and then ease the wheel in a straight direction.
  • For standard brakes, pump gently. For anti-lock brakes, apply steady pressure.

If Your Car Skids--Front Tires

  • Front car tires may skid on ice when moving forward from a stop sign or stop light. Touching the accelerator intermittently will most often allow the car's tires to gain traction.
  • If this happens while driving, immediately let off the gas and shift the car into neutral, but don't attempt to steer.
  • As the car begins to slow, then steer the wheel in the direction of the skid and put the car into drive, accelerating slowly.

When Your Car is Stuck in the Snow

  • Shovel the snow from underneath and around the tires.
  • Unless you're by yourself, have one or more people rock the car as you lightly accelerate. If this doesn't work...
  • Pour sand or kitty litter within the path of the tire and slowly accelerate to allow the car to gain traction.

Taking precautions with these severe winter driving tips will ensure you have a safe holiday, free of accidents and increases in your auto insurance.

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