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How Should I Drive in the Snow?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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If you need to drive in the snow, you should do it carefully, and you should be equipped with the proper equipment. Snow presents a number of hazards to drivers, and it can be very dangerous, especially when snow is combined with sleet or rain, which can cause pockets of ice to form on the road. In a situation where snow is coming down heavily or roads in your area have not been plowed, sanded, or salted, you should refrain from driving until conditions improve.

The first step to driving safely in the snow is having a safe car. Make sure that your tires are fully inflated and in good condition. Your windshield wipers and lights should also be in working order, and your windows should be cleaned inside and out so that they will not fog up and obscure visibility. If snowfall has been heavy, you should equip your car with snow chains, which will improve your traction. If you live in a snowy area, you might also want to consider using specialized snow tires in the winter.

Driving conditions in the snow can go bad rapidly. You should stock your car with flares in case of an accident, so that you can increase your visibility, along with water and blankets to keep you hydrated and warm if you get stuck. A working flashlight is also a very useful tool to have.

The most important thing to remember when you drive in the snow is that that slower you go, the safer you are. Drive well below the speed limit to ensure that you have plenty of time to react to hazards in the roadway, and leave a healthy margin between you and other cars on the road. When you reach turns, brake before you reach the turn and accelerate out of it; this will improve your traction and prevent skids. Stay alert in the snow, and be aware that hazards can pop up in surprising places.

If your car starts to skid due to snow and ice on the road, take your foot off the accelerator and steer into the skid. Avoid using your brakes, as this can cause your car to slide or fishtail. If steering into the skid would cause you to drift into oncoming traffic, slowly and gently turn the wheel in the opposite direction. You should also be alert for troubled vehicles when you drive in the snow; look for other cars which may be skidding or experiencing difficulties so that you can avoid them.

A common cause of accidents in the snow is so-called “target fixation.” If you do go into a skid or your car starts to get out of control, try to stay calm. If you freeze up at the thought of the approaching tree, telephone pole, or oncoming traffic, you won't be able to steer out of the way.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WikiMotors researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By croydon — On Dec 06, 2013

@umbra21 - It's interesting that driving on sand and driving on snow seem to be very similar. I was in Dubai a couple of years ago with a friend and we went driving on the sand dunes (with a driver) and he kept doing that turn into the skid in order to keep from getting stuck.

I was terrified at first because I don't know much about driving in general and I thought we were minutes from an accident but my friend realized it was basically the same thing they do when driving in the snow.

By umbra21 — On Dec 05, 2013

@browncoat - It depends on the conditions I think. Of course, being able to tell what the conditions are like is one of the benefits of being experienced with a particular climate. There are definitely times when you might think you've got fairly good conditions to drive, but there are actually patches of ice to watch for.

And it is incredibly difficult for some people to learn how to steer into the skid. Because the automatic reaction from an inexperienced driver is to try and steer in the opposite direction, while holding down the breaks, which is exactly what you aren't supposed to do.

I live in an area with a snow resort and we have people get into accidents every year because they don't realize what the road conditions are like.

By browncoat — On Dec 04, 2013

If you are visiting somewhere with snow and you aren't used to the conditions, I would let an expert drive rather than trying to do it yourself, particularly if you are on a schedule. Either take public transport or get a friend to drive you places.

There's a time and a place to learn how to drive in the snow and if you're just on vacation, you probably shouldn't be doing it.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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