Kansas City’s first large snowstorm hit one week ago, and today our grass and trees are still covered with snow! While snow can be stunning and beautiful from indoors, it’s not so stunning when you have to drive in winter-like conditions.
Driver safety in winter’s weather is very important. Not only does driving safely in winter weather keep your automobile running efficiently – but more importantly, it helps keep you and your passengers safe!
Avoiding Winter Weather Car Accidents
Our biggest fears when bad weather hits is that we’re going to get into a car accident, and that we’re going to get stuck in the snow. We encourage all drivers to stay very ALERT while driving, and especially in bad weather. Do what you can to avoid any accidents. Always be aware of the cars around you, as well as any upcoming stoplights, stop signs or busy intersections. Drive slowly. While you cannot control if another car hits you, you can control how you operate your car and your alertness when it comes to driving in winter weather.
Tips for Maneuvering your Vehicle in Winter Weather
As you drive safely to avoid any accidents, here are some special tips for maneuvering your vehicle in winter’s weather:
Winter Weather Driving Tip #1- Don’t Brake on the Hills
If you approach a hill, avoid using your brakes – both on the uphill and downhill drives. Also, go easy on the gas. Tires need traction in order to drive safely, and too much gas leaves you spinning your wheels. If you’re approaching an upwards hill, give the car a little extra gas (very gently) as your approach the hill. Reduce speed once you reach the top. If you’re approaching a downwards hill, go very slowly and coast as much as you can. Whatever you do on a hill, avoid quick braking and stopping.
Winter Weather Driving Tip #2 – Don’t Over-correct
It’s our natural instinct to over-correct as we drive. Just as we naturally want to swerve if a deer jumps into the road, we also instinctively want to over-correct the vehicle as it starts to slip on ice. Hold the steering wheel tightly, and gently steer your car if you hit an ice patch. If you attempt to swerve or quickly maneuver your car, you’ll run the risk of spinning out into intersections and yards.
Winter Weather Driving Tip #3 – Cruise Control OFF
Cruise control is especially dangerous on wet roads. If your tires begins to lose traction and your cruise control is engaged, your tires will spin more rapidly and this can cause your car to hydroplane. Trust us, we know the convenience of cruise control! But when it comes to wet, snowy, icy weather, make sure cruise control is off. This will help increase your control of the car.
Winter Weather Driving Tip #4 – Weigh It Down
If you drive a light-weight vehicle, and especially a small front-wheel drive SUV or pick-up truck, weigh your car down by putting sand bags in the back. By weighing down your car, you’ll prevent the back-end of your vehicle from spinning out. Sandbags can be found at any hardware store, and at most grocery stores.
Winter Weather Driving Tip #5 – Avoid Snow Banks
Especially if you drive a car that is low to the ground, avoid driving over snow banks. This is how many drivers get stuck. In deeper snow, and especially after it’s been shoveled, driveways and other entrances often have high snow banks. Make sure you don’t drive over these banks and get your car stuck.
Winter Weather Driving Tip #6 – Give ‘Em Room
As your driving in winter weather, make sure to give plenty of space between you and the car ahead of you. Give more room than normal, as this will increase your driving safety. This will not only help prevent you rear-ending them, but it will also help you anticipate and foresee any problems they might have.
Winter Weather Driving Tip #7 – Tire Check
As you’re driving in snow, check your tires. Make sure you have adequate tread on your tires, and that you have the right air pressure in your tires.
How to get your vehicle unstuck from the snow
While we try to avoid getting our vehicles stuck in the snow, it happens all too easily. If you find yourself stuck in the snow, don’t panic. There are several tips for getting your car unstuck.
(If a shovel is nearby,) try to shovel out the snow from underneath the tires. Because tires need traction, it’s ideal to remove the slick snow from underneath the vehicle so that tires can find some non-slick surface.
In the event you don’t have a shovel, or that doesn’t work, find a way to add traction to underneath the tires. A variety of materials can be used – ice melt, rock salt, kitty litter, and sand are the most recommended. Try placing cardboard, old pieces of carpet squares or even floor mats under the tires to try and gain traction.
If you find yourself without a shovel or access to any materials, try moving your wheels slowly from side-to-side and find another path. Whatever you do, don’t just spin your wheels while you’re stuck – that just makes it worse.
If you have help, have several people stand near the rear of the car and push. Slowly accelerate as they push. It’s also helpful for them to create a rocking motion with your vehicle as they push and you gently accelerate.
If you’ve tried all of our tips and are still stuck, we recommend using the information we provide on our Car Safety Tips webpage.