Best Driving Tips: How to Drive on Ice and Snow
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As a driver, you encounter a variety of conditions on the road.
Some days, it might be sunny and warm, and your tires stick to the dry pavement like glue.
Other times, freezing rain causes a slick surface, increasing stopping distances and requiring careful driving.
And when winter weather appears, with roads covered in ice and snow and traction at a premium, you have to drive with particular care to avoid skidding.
Driving in snow and icy conditions can be especially dangerous because of slippery roads and decreased visibility.
And even though the blacktop appears normal, icy roads may cause a sudden loss in traction.
Let's look at seven tips for safe driving on snowy roads and bad weather.
Driving tips for ice and snow
Tip 1. Purchase winter tires
With their purpose-built tread patterns and rubber compounds, winter tires tackle snowy conditions with ease.
Snow tires use a tread featuring many “sipes” cut into the individual rubber blocks. These small grooves help winter tires lock into snow and ice and provide traction far superior to typical all-season tires.
The rubber compound used on winter tires is softer, helping them maintain pliability when temperatures go below freezing, further enhancing cold-weather performance.
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Tip 2. Be smooth
Using gradual, steady pressure on the accelerator, brakes, and steering wheel during winter driving helps your tires maintain traction on the road surface. That’s because sudden reactions cause your tires to lose what little traction they have, compromising safety along the way.
When experiencing winter driving conditions, taking care to slowly press the accelerator, move the steering wheel in small increments, and gently tap the brake pedal increases the control of your vehicle.
Tip 3. Pay attention to warning lights
Today, many vehicles feature a traction control system (TCS) that activates when wheels slip. When the TCS kicks in, typically, an amber light illuminates in the gauge cluster, in the outline of a car and tire tracks.
The TCS is usually a secondary feature of a car’s electronic stability control (ESC) system that enhances driving safety through the use of computers.
If you encounter snow or icy roads, begin to accelerate, and notice the TCS warning light blinking, gently ease up on the gas pedal so your car can regain traction.
Or, if you’re going around a corner and notice a blinking warning light, it could be the ESC notifying you that you’re off course. It also helps to let off the accelerator in this situation, so your wheels grip the road once again.
Tip 4. Concentrate on the road
During a snowstorm, you often experience poor visibility and also need more room to stop if an obstacle appears in your path. Concentrate your attention further up the road than you typically do, and anticipate any challenges that might emerge. A good rule for driving in inclement weather is to allow for twice the stopping distance in the rain, three times more in snow, and as much as possible on icy roads.
Tip 5: Continually estimate traction
During a drive on winter roads, available traction varies as you travel on different routes and the weather changes. Because of this, your tires’ usable traction fluctuates, affecting your ability to accelerate, brake, and go around corners.
While the ESC and TCS warning lights can alert you to a loss of grip, you can also use your anti-lock braking system (ABS) to assess the situation. After locating an uncrowded or empty stretch of road, lightly apply your brakes.
If you feel the pulsing action of the ABS kick in and your car begins to slide, you’re on a hazardous, slick surface. But if your vehicle gradually comes to a stop, traction isn’t that bad, and you can drive with more peace of mind.
Besides a pulsating sensation, many ABS systems use a warning light that alerts you to them turning on.
Tip 6: All-wheel drive isn’t foolproof
Vehicles with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive may seem like they can handle any road condition with ease, whether it be rain, deep snow, or ice. However, while cars that drive all four wheels do have a traction advantage versus those with front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive, their effectiveness can be overestimated.
Vehicles with all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive display extra traction, especially well while accelerating. But when it comes to stopping or going around corners, they’re similar to regular two-wheel drive vehicles in their ability to adhere to the road. Like driving any other car in winter storms, continually monitoring your traction levels helps you drive safely.
Tip 7: Watch the road surface
If you pay close attention to the road surface during challenging weather conditions, it can give you hints about available traction levels.
Watching for details like whether the road has a matte appearance or an icy sheen can help inform you of what to expect up ahead. Typically, fresh, dry snow offers better adhesion than wet and slushy varieties because it allows the tire tread to lock in and grip the road instead of riding atop it.
If you’re particularly concerned about how slick the roads are, stopping, stepping outside, and walking around can give you a better idea.
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April 15, 2022
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