• 459
It was the first big snowfall of the season and I was out driving on the freeway when it happened. I had been traveling carefully, unsure that my little sedan would be able to keep traction as the snow kept piling up, when a large SUV came flying out of nowhere, attempting to pass me as if the roads were dry. Just as the SUV had gotten ahead of me, the driver lost control. The vehicle spun wildly for a few seconds and then crashed horrifically into the median with a sickening crunch.

Somehow, the driver was unhurt. Many others, however, are not so lucky. Each and every winter, people are injured or killed because they are unprepared or overconfident on snowy, icy roads.

With a winter storm blanketing the Midwest today, drivers could use some reminders on how to drive properly in the snow.

The following rules for driving safely in winter weather are not particularly difficult to follow. Even if you are a veteran driver from a snow belt state, keeping these safety tips fresh in your mind can keep you on the road and in control.

1. Make sure you and your car are properly equipped before you leave.

Do a quick check of your vehicle before you hit the road. Make sure that your car has ample antifreeze, the windshield is clean and you have plenty of windshield washer fluid, the headlights are clean and in working order and the tires have tread and are properly inflated. Also, make sure to have your battery tested, to avoid being stranded in the cold with a car that won't start.

In addition to your vehicle's mechanical equipment, it's important to keep some extra items in the trunk or glove box in case of emergency. Equip your car with a flashlight and extra batteries, a first aid kit, warm clothes, and a blanket. Remember to have sunglasses in the car as well. It always amazes me how many people I see driving in the winter without them. The glare of the sun off of snow and ice can be more intense in the winter than it is in the summer.

One last thing to remember, perhaps the most important of all: Your cell phone.

2. Slow down and drive smoothly.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but even if you're driving an SUV or a four-wheel-drive truck, you cannot safely do 80 mph during a snowstorm. Four-wheel-drive may help your vehicle get going in the slushy stuff, but it's of no use when you're trying to steer or safely stop on a slippery road surface.

It is also important to avoid abrupt acceleration, braking and turns. Doing so can cause your vehicle to lose traction and can launch you into an uncontrollable skid, leading to a collision.

Driving too quickly is the main cause of accidents in winter conditions. Just be patient and accept the fact that it is going to take longer to arrive at your destination.

3. Do not tailgate.

It is important to remember that it takes a much longer distance to stop your vehicle in the snow or ice due to the greatly reduced traction, even with just a light covering on the road. You may think that the driver in front of you doing 35 mph on the freeway is going too slow and needs a reminder in the form of you riding their bumper, but doing so is dangerous. Be patient and stay back until it's safe to pass.

Tailgating often leads to accidents, especially if you are driving in stop-and-go traffic. If the car in front of you stops abruptly and you are following too closely, you can reflexively slam on the brakes and end up sliding into it. The resulting accident may be no more than a fender-bender, but having to deal with it on a busy road in the snow is certainly something that you want to avoid, especially if other cars are sliding around as well. Many serious accident injuries come from a second impact from another car after a seemingly trivial collision.

4. Do not use cruise control.

For some, driving with cruise control has become almost second nature. Sure, it prevents you from getting leg fatigue, keeps you from unwittingly speeding and is great on long trips, but driving with it on in winter conditions can be unsafe. Thus, if cruise control has become a staple of your driving habits, make a conscious effort to ensure that you are not using it in winter weather.

Using cruise control in the snow, ice or even rain is dangerous because if your car hydroplanes or skids, it will accelerate and rapidly spin the wheels since it will be trying to maintain a constant speed. If this happens, it will be more likely that you lose control of your vehicle.

5. Pull over or stay home.

If at any point during your trip -- or before you even leave -- you feel that the weather is too bad to continue driving, simply stay put. If you're out on the road, find a safe spot to pull over and wait until the weather passes or calms to the point where you feel comfortable driving again. If you haven't left yet, stay home and off the roads.

Remember, there is no shame in making the logical decision to stay in when the conditions are bad. You may be late arriving to your destination, but arriving late in one piece is much better than the alternative. Your boss or significant other will understand.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 459 Comments
      DAN O'CONNOR
      • 2 Years Ago
      As usual, there was no mention of headlights, I find it hard to believe how many stupid drivers do not turn on their headlights, no matter how bad the weather conditions are. Here in Indiana we have a puny headlight law that requires headlights on whenever the windshield wipers are used. More than 50% of drivers fail to heed the law and I don't know of anyone getting a traffic citation for failing to use their headlights. In Canada, headlights must be used day and night when driving on a public road and that's the way it should be in the U.S. Dan O.
        Irene Bariga
        • 3 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        Believe it or not Dan, headlights are a defensive driving awareness all over this country, or at least it's growing in that direction.   It doesn't hurt to have headlights on at all times, better for another driver to see you.   What bugs me are people WHO DO NOT BRUSH THE SNOW OFF THEIR LIGHTS, OR THEIR BUMPER, OR WORSE....THE TOP OF THEIR FREAKEN VEHICLES.   THAT SNOW HAS THE CAPAC

        ITY TO BLOW OFF IN VELOCITY 20+ MPH WINDS...RIGHT ON TO ANOTHER DRIVER'S WINDSHIELD CAUSING A HORRIFIC ACCIDENT.    CLEAR YOUR CAR FROM ALL THE WHITE STUFF TO ASSURE YOURSELF AND OTHER DRIVERS THAT YOU ARE A DEFENSIVE LICENSED DRIVER!   

          tony
          • 2 Months Ago
          @Irene Bariga

          mr irene, WHAT IS THOU~S PROBLEM?

        ladydi9251
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR
        i thought that was a national law. i know it is law in midwest.
          Bob
          • 3 Months Ago
          @ladydi9251

          Not in Arizona!

        royg
        • 3 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        Not in daylight with good conditions.

        Private Name
        • 3 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        or the use of the high beam which is really dangerous in a construction zone

        grgblnk1
        • 3 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        And make sure your headlights and taillights are not covered with snow

        Red
        • 2 Years Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR
        IT IS AGAINST THE LAW IN FIJI TO HAE YOUR LIGHTS ON IN THE DAYTIME
          johnrpilot
          • 3 Months Ago
          @Red

          Who the #$&( drives in FIJI?

          PrintError
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Red
          What if your car has automatic headlights, or it's raining?
        ThinkForOncePeople
        • 2 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        Dan, I hate to break it to you, but most of the cars on the highway have automatic lights.  Sensors determine the amount of daylight and the headlights have day and night settings you don't even touch, unless you decide to hit the high beams.  Most of the new cars also have fog lights that illuminate the ground close to the road and don't blind an oncoming driver.

        MARCIA
        • 2 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        I agree with what you said about headlights ON.  People do not realize that headlights On are not just for a driver to see.....but,  to be seen by other drivers......I see a lot of what you wrote about....you are SO correct.


        royg
        • 3 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        Not in day light with good conditions!

          ThinkForOncePeople
          • 2 Months Ago
          @royg

          Yes, in daylight in good conditions.  If you've ever had to drive in the deserts of the American Southwest, you would understand why. 

        penrosecottage
        • 3 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        We have the same kind of law here in Ma. but most of the drives don't care or don't know its the law.

          Irene Bariga
          • 3 Months Ago
          @penrosecottage

          SADLY, THAT'S WHY THEY CALL DRIVERS IN MASSACHUSETTES, "MASSHOLES!"  I HOPE I NEVER HAVE TO DRIVE IN MASSACHUSETTS AGAIN....IT'S DANGEROUS.

        Robert Pinto
        • 3 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        I live in Indiana, and I've on ocassion flashed my lights at an oncoming car, only to discover it was a Cop!

        tony
        • 2 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        waste of gas there danny.

        pm0501
        • 2 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        Here in Michigan, 1 in 12 drive in blinding snow with their headlights off! Even the cops do it!

        bennett388
        • 2 Months Ago
        @DAN O'CONNOR

        Mine come on automatically when the wipers are running for more than 30 seconds.

          tony
          • 2 Months Ago
          @bennett388

          Better get that there problem fixed.

      Nancy Petersen
      • 4 Years Ago
      Drivers in Central Oregon who have winter accidents are almost all behind the wheel of an SUV. These vehicles help you go in snow and ice but do not help you GO FASTER!!!.. On our mountain passes or city streets, almost all who lose it are greenhorns newly arrived to winter weather who run out and buy and SUV because they do not want to be inconvenienced by snowy weather. HELLO.............snowy weather is a pain but if you continue to drive like a bat outta hell, you will either kill someone else, someone in your vehicle or wreck your big expensive toy. This plugs up traffic for hours, leaving others stuck on the road while emergency crews try to save lives, transport the injured and or salvage what is left of your vehicle. GROW UP, SLOW DOWN IN SNOW AND ICE
      • 3 Years Ago
      Slow the F*** down people!!! Most cars in the ditch/accidents are because some people are driving too fast for road conditions!! Stop putting us all in jeopardy, & slow the hell down!!!
        ashespaw
        • 3 Months Ago

        My Dad taught me years ago that when you are in 4-wheel drive, drive like it's 2-wheel drive.  You'll have a better chance of survival.

          wlh1923
          • 2 Months Ago
          @ashespaw

          Didn't he also teach you that if you are in a 4 wheel drive vehicle and come up behind some scared driver in 2WD car that you MUST tailgate, act impatient and generally torment them until they pull over and let you drive by?

      ReyNChris856
      • 4 Years Ago
      It really cracks me up that most people who have SUVs think just because they have 4 wheel drive think they can do 80 down a snow covered road, what is wrong with you people? LISTEN YOU CAN'T STOP ANY FASTER THEN PEOPLE WITHOUT 4 WHEEL DRIVE, the only advantage you have with 4 wheel drive is you have a little more traction less likely to get stuck. You think you can just go a head and pass me, I will see you wrapped around a pool or tree or your 4 wheel drive will be any place else but on the road. Maybe that's what crazy drivers need is a good lesson, because your putting other people like my self at very high risk when you tail gate, pass other cars or your doing spin outs for fun, all of which could lead to a crash, and if you do crash you don't crash into an innocent driver who is driving the safe way. But hey if you do crash because your driving crazy in snow or ice then hey you deserve it and hopefully you'll learn your lesson on to taking your time by driving safely.
        shirley.butterfield
        • 3 Months Ago
        @ReyNChris856

        The worst drivers are the ones in small cars that keep changing lanes and do not turn on their headlights.  By the way, many of us SUV drivers do not drive like maniacs. 

          Dave
          • 3 Months Ago
          @shirley.butterfield

          Yes, you do. 

          qbqs
          • 3 Months Ago
          @shirley.butterfield

          Drivers of the small sh*t box cars are poor. Otherwise, they would have a real car. They are poor beacuse they can't think. 

      • 3 Years Ago
      It is extremely important that employers understand point 5. They much too often make employees feel that no matter the threat to life or limb the employee must be there. This seems very prevelent. No one should feel their job or record clean from reprimands should be held as threat to make them drive to work on a day in which they are frightened of injury or death by the weather. The smallest og employers should have "banked" emergency hours for employees to use over the year for personal and weather emergencies, even if they don't have sick days and personal leave days for employees or status employees such as part-timers...say 8-10 hours over a year. If the business is very small, if your employee/s cannot make it in maybe you shouldn't be open that day anyway. But, if the business is that small, there's another good reason for hiring from within your local community...lowers the risk of weather related absenteeism.
        mhdjl
        • 3 Months Ago

        Many years ago, I worked for a CPA. Of course, the bulk of tax season is during the worst time weather-wise. One time, the weather was getting very bad, so he let us go early. We all had to take ledgers home to do work the next day while home, if the weather was still bad in the morning. Of course, that was long before we got computers in the office!

        Marcie
        • 3 Years Ago
        I knew someone who left work because it was snowing hard. The company let everyone go home 15 or 20 minutes later, but still fired the one who went home without permission. My feeling...if your employer wants you to drive in dangerous winter weather, ask them if they will pay for a new car if you crash, pay for your injuries and pay you for any time you miss due to injuries. Then you'll find out just how valuable you are to your place of employment.
          ashespaw
          • 3 Months Ago
          @Marcie

          That's really dumb.  Why didn't the employee ask permission to go?  If you just walk out you have legally abandoned your job.  If the job is a 24 hour operation, by your not going in somebody else has to work your 8 hours.  If you can't do the drive to work in all conditions, save for a complete shut down of the highways, maybe you should find another job.

          jbondjbond
          • 3 Months Ago
          @Marcie

          While working in Miami with a hurricane rapidly approaching and the next two levels of management above me both out of the office, I made a decision to send the three office staff from my department home three hours early to avoid the worst of the storm.  The next day I was reprimanded because the other three dozen office staff in the other departments were bitching about not being let go early.  I told my boss, that since I was the highest ranking person in the office at the time, I was just exercising my discretion as management to try to keep them from driving in severe conditions.  I told them they shouldn't both be gone from the office at the same time (especaily out drinking together) and they could let me go, take the pay for the time the employees missed out of my pay, or get over it.  They opted to warn me never to do it again and check with some other upper management in another department for a decision, but they got over it.

        sirdashgcn
        • 3 Months Ago

        You make an excellent point. A few years back, my daughter was told by her employer to show up for work or be terminated. Never mind the fact that all traffic was banned except for emergency and snow clearing personnel. I guess opening a shoe/clothing store fell under the category of "emergency".

      dsherline
      • 3 Months Ago

      The link to this on AOL's homepage screams at us, "Why you should never use your cruise control in the winter"

      What a bunch of BS! Just because it's winter is no reason to stop using your cruise control. Maybe if you're driving in ice, snow, and slush, but not just because it's winter.

      colin.shark
      • 2 Months Ago

      Or just use snow tires, like northern areas that mandate them.

      Problem solved.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Here's one to keep in mind: on very icy roads, drive slowly with your right side tires off the road on the fringe where there is gravel and rough pavement. This trick has worked for me many times. It keeps the car stable in severe icing conditions. nealhp
        Joe
        • 3 Months Ago

        GOOD WAY TO PICK UP A NAIL AND GET A FLAT

      • 2 Years Ago
      Here are a few tips I've learned over the years driving a tractor trailer. First a locked wheel has NO traction. Therefore to maintain control do not lock up your brakes at any time. Drive smoothly and don't do anything sudden. Leaving a larger than normal space cushion between you and those in front of you allows more time to stop if you need to. Again GENTLY. To prevent ice from forming on your windshield fold BOTH sun visors to a 3/4 down position and put on your defrosters set on hot. The air will continue to circulate in front of the windshield and the ice and snow will break up.
        desta81
        • 3 Months Ago

        Don't forget for you FWD folks, a spinning wheel has not steering control

      Don Gaven
      • 2 Months Ago

      If they need to be told not to use the cruise control, they need to be told to stay home when it snows.  It's a good thing the people in Florida don't get snow.

      kcampo6453
      • 2 Months Ago

      If there are people driving in snow with cruise control, don't warn them. Their loss will improve the gene pool.

      Vimala Nowlis
      • 3 Months Ago

      If you need to read this then you should not drive in winter or in snow or on icy roads

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