Know How to Safely Drive in Ice and Snow

A mom prepares for a road trip with her family in the snow.
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Winter snow and ice during the winter months can make for hazardous driving conditions. So it’s no surprise that when road conditions are poor, hospital emergency rooms fill up quickly. Knowing how to handle your vehicle on slick roadways — or avoiding driving through the worst conditions altogether — can keep you and your family safe. Here are a few tips to keep your vehicle on the road, and you out of harm’s way:

Make Gentle Movements

When you feel your vehicle begin to slide and sense you’re losing control, your instinct may be to slam on the brakes or swerve off the road. But, in reality, sudden movements — like turning the wheel, braking hard or accelerating too quickly — can make your tires lose their grip completely on icy, slippery roads.

Instead, make every pedal push and turn of the wheel purposeful, slow and gentle. Gradual movements help your tires maintain traction whether you’re stopping or turning. You should also avoid accelerating hard when going up a hill, which can also cause you to lose traction.

Plan Ahead

The icier the road, the further ahead you need to plan your car’s movements. It will take you longer to stop, start and turn on ice. You’ll need to:

  • Avoid quickly rushing through any yellow lights; instead come to a slow stop for the red
  • Begin braking early to allow a longer distance than you normally would to slow down and stop
  • Leave more space between you and the car ahead of you

Know How to Skid

When roads are icy, the risk of skidding out of control is very high. The key to navigating slippery conditions is to know how to skid safely.

First, don’t panic and slam on the brakes. Instead, ease off of the gas slowly to help your car regain traction. If your rear wheels are skidding, quickly steer into the skid. For example, if the back of your car is sliding right, turn your steering wheel to the right. Once you have traction back, slowly steer back in the direction you want to go.

However, if your skid is sending you toward a tree or another car, you absolutely can hold down the brakes while steering away from the item. Your anti-lock brakes should help you in this situation.

Always Stay Alert

If you have a car with four-wheel drive, you may feel invincible in the snow — especially since these cars will have smooth acceleration, even in poor road conditions. But it’s important to keep in mind that even four-wheel drive doesn’t help when you need to stop and turn. Always stay alert and leave plenty of time for maneuvers, even if you think your car can handle the ice.

Pack a Winter Weather Kit

A winter weather kit can help if you’re in an accident or stranded during a storm. Pack a kit and leave it in your trunk year-round. Your kit should include:

  • Flares
  • Flashlight
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Orange caution triangles
  • Water
  • Warm blankets and clothing

You should also keep your gas tank at least half full and ensure your cellphone is charged. If you do get stuck in your vehicle, make sure the exhaust pipe stays clear of snow. Otherwise, dangerous fumes may build up in your vehicle while it is running.

Avoid Driving as Much as Possible

Even if you’re a great wintertime driver, that doesn’t mean everyone on the road is. The safest thing to do when ice coats the highways is to stay off the roads altogether. Take only necessary trips out to work, school or the grocery store to reduce your risk for an accident.

Know Your Nearest ER

Knowing the location of your closest emergency room — and ensuring your entire family knows as well (children included) — will help put your mind at ease during the winter months. At AdventHealth, our emergency rooms offer 24/7 care for complex injuries and illnesses, and our urgent care centers are open during extended hours and weekends to help in less emergent health issues. Learn more about AdventHealth urgent care and find the nearest location to you.

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