Winter Driving Safety Tips: Winter Commuting the Right Way

Traffic jam during winter with snow and ice visible on vehicles

The combination of snow, sleet, and ice can make winter driving conditions hazardous for even the most experienced drivers. All drivers need to know how to keep themselves and others safe on the road during the winter.

Cold-Weather Driving Safety Tips

In 2019, the US Department of Transportation reported that 33,000 injury accidents caused by winter weather and more than 400 fatalities. Practicing safe driving habits can help to improve the safety of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

We’ll focus on three key factors for safe winter driving:

  1. How to prepare before you hit the road.

  1. How to drive—what might be different in winter conditions.

  1. Accidents do happen—know what to do if you’ve been in a winter driving accident.

How to Prepare for Winter Commuting

You may be ready for winter weather, but is your car? Whether you’re a daily commuter or embarking on a road trip, make sure your vehicle is prepared for winter.

  1. Invest in tires. If you live in a region with long, cold winters with plenty of snow, high-quality winter or all-season tires are key.

    Snow tires have a different tread pattern and are made from a softer rubber compound to enhance traction. Work with an experienced technician to find the right winter tires for your vehicle. But even a good set of all-season tires will assist you on the road.

  1. Pack an emergency kit. Be prepared. From breakdowns to collisions, having certain items can make a tough situation better. Put together a winter roadside kit that includes:

    • Jumper cables

    • Flashlight

    • First aid kit

    • Heavy blanket

    • Gloves

    • Portable shovel

    • Ice scraper (you may already have this)

    • Non-perishable snacks (granola bars, water, etc.)

  1. Replace your windshield wipers. Winter-specific windshield wipers are often thicker and more durable than traditional wipers. Their size and softer rubber blade make them more efficient in removing snow and ice from your windshield while driving. Make it a habit to inspect your windshield wipers before winter and once it starts to snow for the season.

Related Topic: Now Is the Time to Replace Your Windshield Wipers

How to Drive in Snow and Ice

Snow and ice make for unpredictable driving conditions. If you haven’t driven in the snow before or rarely need to, consider taking the time to practice so you can get a sense of how snow and ice affect the traction of your vehicle.

Everyone on the road, experienced winter driver or first-timer, should follow these tips:

  • Drive slowly. Reduce your speed to allow ample time to make rapid adjustments to the wheel or come to a complete stop. This is especially important when visibility is lower than normal due to blowing snow. Don’t let other drivers make you feel obligated or pressured to drive faster than what you feel is safe for conditions. Be especially careful to approach intersections slowly, as they’re often icy or slippery with compacted snow.

  • Lights on. Always use your fog lights, even during daylight hours. This helps you stand out to other drivers at intersections and when changing lanes. Before you leave the house or office, watch the light of your headlights and note if one headlight is out. If so, replace it immediately.

  • Drive defensively. Modern technologies like all-wheel drive and traction control are great but can also lull you into a false sense of security—as can your vehicle type: pickups and SUVs are not impervious to winter weather. Focus on the road, giving other drivers more room than you would in normal driving conditions.

  • Recognize when it’s time to stay off the roads. Pay attention to the weather report and heed weather watches and warnings. There are times when it is prudent to stay off the roads, even for seasoned winter drivers.

What to Do if You’ve Been in a Wintertime Accident

Accidents happen. Knowing what to expect and what to do after a winter car crash can reduce the stress and anxiety of a scary situation.

What to do:

  • Stay calm and help others if they’re injured. Only provide care that you feel comfortable offering.

  • Call 9-1-1 and provide details that will help the police and/or an ambulance to get to the scene quickly.

  • Do not leave the scene of the accident. This is a crime.

  • Write down and record as much information about the accident as you can, including taking photos or asking bystanders to wait with you to speak with the police.

  • Offer as much information as you can to authorities once they arrive. Speak truthfully and do not admit fault.

Waiting for the police at the scene can be uncomfortable in the cold. Wait in your car (if it’s off the road and safe). Keep your car visible if it remains in the roadway and ask other drivers to use their lights to illuminate the scene if they can do so safely.

For winter driving, it’s important to know when not to drive, how to drive when you do, and how to prepare your car to make it as safe as possible for challenging winter conditions.

Tackle Winter Driving Conditions with Confidence

Preparing for wintry roads by addressing your car’s tires, windshield wipers, and any existing windshield damage can help you operate your vehicle safely and with confidence. Your local Glass Doctor offers a wide variety of auto glass services. So don’t delay necessary auto glass repairs, call (833) 974-0209 or request an estimate online today!