6 Tips for Driving in the Snow and Not Crashing

Jodi Lai
by Jodi Lai

If you were one of the lucky North Americans who got hit by your first winter storm of the year last night, you probably woke up to terrible driving conditions.

It’s inevitable that the first storm of the year will be met with terrible drivers who have forgotten how to drive in the winter. Here are some things you can do to ease the pain and stay safe.

1. Proper winter tires are a must

Even the crappiest winter tires are better in cold, snowy conditions than good all-season tires. The difference is in how much grip you’ll get. Simply put, winter tires use rubber that’s more effective in the cold and have special tread that gives you more grip. And having all-wheel drive doesn’t mean you’re invincible in the snow – you still need winter tires because AWD does nothing to help you stop faster.

ALSO SEE: The 8 Best Winter Tires and Why You Absolutely Need Them

2. Clear the damn snow off your car

It’s dangerous when drivers don’t clear the snow and ice from their cars. It reduces a driver’s visibility out of the car, and the ice and snow can blow off and pose a risk to other drivers on the road. Take the few extra minutes to clear all the snow and ice off your car before you get going.

ALSO SEE: Top 10 Best Snow Brushes and Ice Scrapers

3. Smooth driving is safe driving

Try to keep your inputs smooth. Don’t be jerky with braking, acceleration and turning. Any sudden movements will increase the possibility of upsetting the car’s balance and losing control in slippery conditions. If your car has a snow/winter mode, use it. It will usually start the car in second gear so you won’t spin your tires when you try to accelerate from a stop. Leave yourself ample room to brake, do it very smoothly and progressively, and never follow people too closely.

4. Never use cruise control in bad conditions

You should only use cruise control in dry conditions because cruise control is meant to maintain a wheel’s speed regardless of the conditions. You need to be in full control in bad driving conditions so you can make faster decisions. Also, if you hydroplane, having cruise control engaged can make the situation much more dangerous. When you hydroplane, you need to take your foot off the gas to reduce momentum, and if cruise control is on, it will have the opposite effect and you’ll have to press the brakes to disengage it. Mashing on the brakes will increase the possibility of losing more control (see #3).

5. Don’t drive faster than you’re comfortable

This seems obvious, but if you’re not comfortable driving in the snow, don’t do it. If you need to drive slower, move to the right lane so people can pass you. If you feel uncomfortable, the best thing is to just slow down and don’t panic.

6. If you’re losing control, look where you want to go

If you find yourself losing control, don’t mash on the brakes and close your eyes. Take your foot off the gas, look where you want to go, and smoothly steer in that direction.

Good luck and stay safe this winter!

ALSO SEE: Top 15 Best Ski and Snowboard Racks for Cars

Jodi Lai
Jodi Lai

Jodi has been obsessed with cars since she was little and has been an automotive journalist for the past 12 years. She has a Bachelor of Journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto, is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and a jury member for the prestigious North American Car/Truck/Utility Vehicle of the Year (NACTOY). Besides hosting videos, and writing news, reviews and features, Jodi is the Editor-in-Chief of AutoGuide.com and takes care of the site's day-to-day operations.

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2 of 9 comments
  • Chevy guy Chevy guy on Dec 30, 2015

    I legitimately enjoy driving in the snow, blizzards are a bonus. I drive a half ton pickup and every major snowstorm me and a buddy drive around and look for people to pull outta snow banks (free of course, it's just plain fun to do!) but one thing they missed is practicing in it! New drivers need to be taken to a safe open area like a closed mall parking lot in the snow and practice in their own car. See how it feels when it loses traction, starts to spin, loses the front during a turn, gaining that feel in a controlled environment before being released onto the public rds should be mandatory. Not everybody is a car guy like we are and legitimately don't know how to handle a car properly in the dry never mind snow and ice. If the first time you spin a car out is on the highway in traffic in snow your done for. Plus practicing these things is so damn fun!

  • Jeff T Jeff T on Jan 01, 2016

    Don't forget to not put on your four ways. Every vehicle is in the same situation around you. Definitely an unsafe distraction if you're not actually I'm distress.