How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

Driving Tips for Snowy and Icy Roads

Winter tires have special treads designed to help you navigate through snow and ice.

According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) car accidents are the number one cause of death during winter storms. Defensive driving is important. Learning how to maneuver your vehicle when confronted with winter's elements could mean the difference between winding up in a snow bank on the side of the road and arriving safely at your destination.

  • Before you go, listen to the radio for announcements about accidents, road closings, and road advisories. Call your local highway patrol if this information is not available on the radio.
  • Plan your route ahead of time to avoid any roads that become dangerous during bad weather. If a road is closed or blocked, do not attempt to continue on this route.
  • Let someone know your route so if you do become stranded, your family can let authorities know where to start looking.
  • Be aware that bridges and overpasses freeze first. Slow down before reaching them and avoid sudden changes in speed or direction.
  • Use gentle impulses while driving: accelerate gently, turn slowly, and brake carefully and early. Avoid unexpected quick movements that could put you in a spin by leaving ample room between you and the next car. Anticipate turns, stops, and lane changes well before they occur.
  • Conversely, don't go too slow. The car will need some momentum to be able to push through heavier snow without getting stuck.
  • Steer clear of trucks. They are heavier than cars and need considerably longer stopping distances. Their tires also tend to spray snow and rain into parallel lanes, further hindering your visibility.
  • If you have a vehicle with four- or all-wheel drive, don't get overconfident and rely on its abilities to get you out of a problem. The traction and force created by all four wheels driving instead of two helps you get going from a stop, but does not assist your vehicle's braking ability. In fact, AWD- and 4WD-equipped vehicles are heavier than 2WD vehicles and require more time and braking power to come to a stop.
  • See and be seen. Always keep your lights on while driving through rain, snow, and fog.