If you're new to winter driving you will soon have some new skills to develop. While winter weather conditions account for 22 percent of weather-related collisions, many of these are preventable. If you take your time, prepare your vehicle and know how to modify your driving habits for ice and snow, there's no reason to fear driving when the snow begins to fall.
Preparing your vehicle for winter
Winter tires are best for driving on snow and ice-covered roads because they give better traction. Traveling at 20 mph on snow, winter tires can stop 13 feet shorter than all-season tires and 16 feet shorter than all-terrain tires.
If you have come from a southern area, your wiper fluid may freeze in extreme cold. Drain it and replace it with winter fluid before the temperatures drop. Get a snow brush and scraper for your car. Clear the roof, mirrors and windows of ice and snow before going on the road. Emergency items, like a shovel, jumper cables, a flashlight and a spare jug of wiper fluid are good to have too.
While driving on winter roads
When there is ice or snow on the road, it's important to drive smoothly and at a reasonable speed. Driving too fast is the main cause of winter accidents. Sudden turns or stops can cause you to lose control and skid. Tailgating is extremely dangerous on winter roads; leave extra room between you and the car ahead of you. Turn off the cruise control when the roads are slippery. If your car hydroplanes, the cruise control will try to compensate by accelerating, which can cause you to lose control.
Before making a turn or driving around a sharp curve, brake slowly to reduce your speed. Once you have completed the turn and your wheels are straight again you can accelerate. If you are approaching a steep hill, accelerate before you start going up the hill to get some extra inertia. Accelerating while on a slippery hill can cause your tires to spin.
When it's snowing, turn on your lights to improve your visibility to other drivers. In winter and summer, a good rule of thumb is to turn on your headlights whenever you need your windshield wipers.
When handling the brakes
On snow-covered roads, don't come to a full stop unless you absolutely have to. You are much more likely to get stuck or skid when trying to accelerate after a full-stop than when your car already has some inertia. For example, when there are several inches of snow on the road, slow down when you approach a red light and creep towards the intersection until the light is green.
Even experienced winter drivers can't always tell just how slippery snow-covered roads might be. Long before you approach a stop sign or turn, test the conditions by gently applying the brakes to slow down a bit. If the car barely slows down, or doesn't slow down at all, you should greatly reduce your speed.
If your vehicle has an anti-lock breaking system, or ABS, never pump the brakes. Use a constant pressure and let the ABS do its work. If you aren't sure just how slippery the road is, test the road before you reach a stop sign or intersection. Gently press the brake pedal for a second or two to see how your car responds.
When facing a skid
When your vehicle begins to skid, the natural reaction is to break and to turn towards the direction you want to go. This is actually the opposite of what you should do. When faced with a skid, turn the wheels into the skid and gently press the accelerator. This transfers the vehicle's weight from the front tires to the rear tires and is more likely to help you regain control.