This article was originally published on Kayser Ford, re-posted with permission. Remember, ‘A Kayser buyer is a wiser buyer!’

Living in Wisconsin all my life, I know what it is like to drive in icy, snowy conditions. Even though I feel I am pretty good at knowing how to drive in adverse conditions, there are always times when you should just remain off the roads until the weather has improved and roads have cleared.

Safe driving on snow and ice

If you do find yourself on the road in adverse conditions, try these tips for safe driving on snow and ice. Keep in mind that if your car starts sliding or spinning, and you are not adept at using these techniques already (through practice or training), nothing listed here will help you – humans panic and typically forget everything they have learned. If it isn’t habit, it won’t be first nature. The best thing you can do is find a safe place to practice before heading out in adverse conditions.

Tips for safe driving on snow and ice:

  • Tires. To have adequate traction in snow you need to have decent tires with good tread. A worn set of tires isn’t doing you any favors, and replacing them is always a good idea to stay safe on the road.
  • Don’t drive too fast for conditions. No matter how good of a driver you think you are, driving 80mph in a snowstorm, or going 20mph too fast as you enter an icy corner is just going to land you in the ditch or worse. Great driving and/or great tires cannot save you from the laws of physics.
  • Make sure you can see – and be seen. Is it time to replace your windshield wipers? Be sure they are doing the job intended or get rid of them.
  • AWD or 4WD does not give you the ability to drive better in adverse conditions. While it may help you turn on snowy roads a little, the difference is minimal versus having a great set of tires, and AWD does NOTHING to help you stop. Don’t give yourself a false sense of security just because you have an AWD vehicle.
  • Don’t follow the person in front of you too closely. If they need to stop suddenly, the chances of you rear-ending them are very high. Stay a safe distance back, even if they are driving slower than you would like. You can always wait for a safe time to pass, but tailing them right on their bumper does nothing for either of you.
  • Brake early. It is better to approach a stop slowly by braking early rather than trying to stop suddenly and slide through your stop.
  • SKID CONTROL: If you feel yourself start to skid, or your tires start to slip, don’t panic and slam on the brakes. Simply easy off the accelerator and let the car slow on it’s own. A moving car has some traction, braking takes away the ability to control your vehicle.
  • Be careful of bridges, due to the difference in exposure to air the surface conditions of bridges tend to freeze first and can be more slippery than the surrounding roads.

In my experience, the following driving technique has come in very handy if I can remember nothing else at the time:

The rule of threes. Your vehicle can do one of three things at any given time, and never more than one at a time in order to maintain control. You can accelerate, you can turn (steer), or you can brake.

  • Trying to steer while you are braking will only cause you to skid.
  • Trying to steer while you are accelerating will again cause you to skid, or under or over steer your intended target.
  • Braking and accelerating at the same time just makes no sense. 

When I know it is slippery out and I have a turn coming up I always ease off the accelerator to allow myself to slow naturally, braking occasionally as necessary, but never a hard brake. I then make the turn, neither accelerating or breaking during the turn. As I complete the turn I then begin accelerating again. This technique has saved me from countless spin-outs and has kept me out of the ditch on more than one occasion!

Photo credit: modified from Pavel P., Flickr