How to drive in the snow

Caught in a winter wonderland? Here's how to safely traverse it in your car

When the weather outside is frightful, your commute probably won’t be delightful. Even an inch of snow can turn solid drivers into pinballs, prompting them to careen helplessly across even the most level ground.

If you’re planning a road trip this winter — or simply live somewhere with a lot of snow — don’t assume that putting chains on your tires will suffice (although it is an important first step); knowing the right things to do while driving in winter weather could save you from an accident. While you could take a class on winter driving, we’ve compiled a list of tips that you can follow to drive safely once the snow starts falling.

Sit up straight

Good posture isn’t just important for avoiding back pain — it can also help you drive better. Laying back in your seat can make steering more difficult, a problem if you suddenly hit a slick spot. Adjust your seat so that you are sitting up straight.

Brake in a straight line

Real life isn’t Mario Kart, so don’t hit the brakes while turning. Brake while your car is going in a straight line, so that the car will be moving slower when you take a turn. Be sure to release the brake while turning.

Look to your destination

Keep your eyes on the spot you want to go, rather than where the car is currently going. If your car is sliding and you’re looking in the direction it is moving, your hands may drift on the steering wheel as well.

Brake before you need to

When the road is slick, your brakes may not bring you to a sudden stop. Start braking early, so you can come to a complete stop in time.

Give the car in front of you a lot of space

It’s always important to avoid tailgating on the road, particularly in winter conditions. Keep twice as much distance between you and the car ahead of you as you normally would. That way, if they slam on the brakes or start spinning out of control, you’ll have time to slow down.

Don’t jam on controls

When you’re fighting the elements and suddenly feel out of control, slamming on the brakes is a natural reaction. A light touch is important when driving in snow, however. Ease into whatever you are doing, whether braking, throttling, etc. One exception: If your car is starting to slide, you may need to steer quickly to get control of the situation.

Careful driving can be a lifesaver in the snow. It’s also a good idea to build an emergency survival kit and have it on hand, in case you find yourself in an accident.

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