Driving in snow is often quite challenging, and whether you are used to driving under such conditions or not, caution is advised at all times.
The major issue when driving in snow is traction: you can easily lose it, and to avoid it you need to drive slower than usual.
Driving in snow requires preparation. You need to prepare both yourself and your car for driving in snow, regardless of how experienced and skilful a driver you are. If possible, try to plan your trip and take all the necessary precautions. Consider the following tips to drive safely in the snow:
Use an app to monitor any weather changes and receive warnings for the route you plan on taking. Weather apps can really help you foresee any unexpected inconvenients. Update them as your trip approaches.
Make sure your car is snow-free. Even though it isn’t illegal to drive with snow on your car, it is legally required to have a clear view of the road ahead. So if there is snow in your windshield you should take the time to clear it, using a scraper if necessary.
There are many things to consider before starting the car, such as the headlights and wipers. If you are driving in snow during the night, remember to check beforehand that every headlight is working. The same applies to wipers, as they will keep your vision clear.
One of the most important things to consider when driving in snow is the state of your tires. When it comes to tire tread depth, you can use the penny trick. Put a penny into several tread grooves of the tire. If the top of Lincoln’s memorial engraved in the penny is covered by the tread, then the tread depth is over 6/32 inches.
If roads are covered in snow, then tires shouldn’t have less than 5/32″ of tire depth, otherwise it will affect your mobility. You should have more tread depth while driving in snow because the tires compress it into the grooves and then slowly release it while they roll.
As time-consuming as it may be, it is necessary to consider changing your tires for ones with deeper tread. Worn tires are particularly dangerous and even more when the road is wet because they increase the risk of losing grip and affect braking distances even more.
If you cannot change your tires or snow tires are not necessary because you do not live in a snowy area, accessories such snow socks and snow chains can be a cheaper alternative and they also provide better grip without the need to change your tires.
In addition to the few convenient items you should always carry with you in any trip, such as a cellphone charger, blankets or food and drinks, there are others that can be especially useful when driving in snow: a flashlight, an ice scraper, a shovel, and a safety reflective vest.
Other useful things to keep close when driving in snow are cat litter, old bits of carpet or sand, all of which help give your car traction should it get stuck. You should also wear comfortable and dry footwear as well as warm clothes. Sunglasses can be of great help too, since they reduce snow glare, which can damage your vision and even cause an accident.
If you are driving a car with manual transmission, starting the car with the gearshift into second gear might be the best option. Check if your car has a winter mode, since that can make the trip easier.
Once you are on the road you should control your speed and keep a wider distance with the vehicle in front of you. The 2-second following distance rule should grow into 8 or 10 when driving in snow, making it easier to stop in case you have to. Another very important rule is not to stamp your foot on the breaks, regardless of the situation.
The best thing is to drive through major roads, which tend to be clear of snow. You should also use your dipped headlights and, should visibility drop below 100 m, you should turn your fog lights on.
Car batteries run down more quickly in winter, so if the trip is very long you can use a trickle-charger to help the battery remain fully charged. It is also important to keep your fuel tank full, so that if you need to head back home you can actually do it.
To avoid an incident and getting stuck, remember to always accelerate and break slowly. If such thing were to happen, turn your wheels from side to side, use a shovel to clear the snow and pour sand, cat litter or use the bits of carpet to gain traction.
Afterwards, start your car and shift gears from forward to reverse. If your car is not moving you can still leave the engine running for no more than 15 minutes every hour, to stay warm while you wait. Just make sure the pipe is not blocked by snow.
Driving in snow should not be taken lightly. It requires planning, both for the driver and the car, and there are a lot of aspects to take into consideration while driving as well.