Drive safely in winter weather

Winter DrivingWinter weather can create hazardous driving conditions quickly. Many crashes occur when motorists do not properly anticipate the road surface conditions. Drivers assume the roads will not be slippery unless the temperature is below freezing. However, ice can form on road surfaces any time the air temperature drops to 40 degrees or less, and especially in windy conditions. It is important to monitor the weather and road conditions, and to take the necessary precautions. Above all, slow down to an appropriate speed to respond to potential hazards.

Winter weather driving tips

  • Drive slowly; everything takes long on snow-covered  or icy roads, including stopping. Also, accelerate and decelerate slowly to avoid going into a skid.
  • If you do begin to slide on snow or ice, it is important to not panic.
    • Take your foot off the gas and DO NOT hit the brakes.
    • Steer the front of the vehicle into the skid … the same direction you are sliding.
    • If you must use the brakes, in ABS-equipped vehicles use a firm, steady pressure without pumping. If your car is not equipped with ABS, gently pump the brake pedal to avoid locking up the brakes.
  • Drivers with four-wheel-drive vehicles should remember that although it provides some additional traction in non-ideal weather conditions, they should still take the same precautions as if they were driving in a two-wheel-drive vehicle.
  • Stay home if you can. If you really don’t have to go out in poor weather conditions, don’t.

Vehicle maintenance

Motorists should ensure their vehicle is in good mechanical condition for handling winter weather.

  • Make sure antifreeze is at the proper level.
  • Install new wiper blades if needed and fill the washer fluid reservoir.
  • Keep an extra bottle of window washer solvent in the vehicle.
  • Make sure battery terminals are clean. If the battery is more than three years old have it tested by a qualified technician.
  • Check tire treads, or have them checked by a qualified technician at a tire dealer.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full.

Emergency supplies

Unexpected events happen. If you become snow-bound, stay with your vehicle. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna and make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged. Have an emergency kit prepared ahead of time and stored in the vehicle including, but not limited to:

  • Extra clothing, boots, stocking cap, gloves or mittens
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries, and flares
  • Small shovel, sand or kitty litter
  • Blankets
  • First-aid supplies
  • Drinking water and nutritious snacks
  • Small candles and matches; a single lit candle can provide warmth for four hours.
  • A charged cell phone
  • Lock de-icer

Additional driving safety tips

  • Avoid driving while fatigued.
  • Monitor the weather and plan extra time to arrive to your destination.
  • Pay attention to the vehicles around you; allow plenty of extra space between cars.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface, whether wet or icy.
  • Wear a seat belt every time you get into a vehicle.
  • During inclement weather, make sure to let others know your route and expected arrival time.
  • Stay alert and on longer trips make sure to take needed breaks.
  • Keep an eye on road signs, landmarks and construction zones.
  • Never run a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.

Information provided by the Michigan Network of Employers for Traffic Safety and AAA.