It’s important to learn some basic strategies to stay safe on winter roads. During winter months, make it a habit to check the weather reports before heading out. If snow or ice is predicted, make plans to leave early or arrive later.
If you can move a night trip to daylight hours, do so. Not only is visibility better, but if your vehicle stalls, you are more likely to receive prompt assistance during the daytime. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is another great source for winter driving tips.
Read our tips to prepare your vehicle for winter driving. Use this checklist as a guideline for “winterizing” your car:
In everyday driving situations, cars with ABS (anti-lock brakes) and traditional braking systems are basically identical. In an emergency stopping situation, two distinctly different techniques are required. With traditional brakes, which still can be found on pre-2004 model cars, avoiding brake lock up may require the pumping technique, but the driver must lift off the brake if steering is required to avoid an obstacle.
Anti-lock Breaking Systems, which became common in in the U.S. in 2004 and mandatory in 2013, allow the driver to press the brake pedal as hard as possible, holding it there and allowing the computer to pump the brakes while still maintaining steering effectiveness. Think of ABS as “allows you to brake and steer.” Remember that ABS can't perform miracles — if you feel ABS engaging during every day driving, slow down, because you are exceeding the reasonable speed for the conditions.
One day, Crash Imminent Braking may be a standard feature in most cars. But even if that’s the case, many basic safety tips will remain unchanged.
Keep both hands on the wheel and keep the wheel turned where you want your car to go. While it may sound overly simple, it could help you in a skid.
While manual transmissions may provide greater control to assist with braking, be careful when using downshifting to slow the vehicle. Gear changes, particularly abrupt ones, can upset a vehicle's balance and cause a skid, especially in turns.
Watch a professional driver tackle winter road conditions on a snow handling course in Hokkaido, Japan.