When we’re kids, it’s easy to love snow days. No school, hot cocoa, and an afternoon of sledding, what’s not to love? But when we’re older, snow days feel a little different. After all, snow or not, we must brave the roads and leave the house for work, groceries, or other errands. Unfortunately, driving during wintery conditions brings a higher risk of accidents, as 150,000 car crashes occur annually due to icy roads*.
Luckily, driving in the snow doesn’t have to be intimidating, as long as you follow our winter driving safety tips listed below.
Winter Driving Tips
General Winter Driving Tips
When the weather starts to dip down, keep your driving experience incident-free with these winter driving tips:
- Keep Your Tank Half-Full: Make sure your gas tank is at least half full; this will prevent the possibility of a gas line freeze.
- Be Prepared: Have some safety supplies and cold weather gear packed in the trunk of your car. Some great items to have are an ice scraper, water, a snack, a warm blanket, and a flashlight.
- Watch Your Battery: Be sure to test your battery frequently, as the power can decrease as it gets colder. It’s bad enough being stuck with a dead battery, but it’s definitely worse in the cold!
- Keep Your Tires Inflated: It’s essential to ensure that your tires are properly inflated. The cold weather can decrease tire pressure, which can reduce the traction of your tires.
- Avoid The “Warm-Up”: While we all love having a warm and cozy car to get into, it’s important never to leave a car running in an enclosed area, like a garage. This can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Get Smart: It’s always a good idea to have a device like the CPI Drive in your car so you can stay up-to-date with your vehicle's diagnostics, as well as receive real-time status updates and safety alerts.
CPI Security Tip: Safe driving is important year-round. Combine our winter driving recommendations with our general driving safety tips for an even safer driving experience.
Tips for Driving in the Snow
While it is safe to drive in the snow, it’s also more dangerous and difficult than normal conditions, especially if it doesn’t snow very often where you live.
When driving under snowy or icy conditions, it’s important to keep these safety recommendations in mind:
- Assess Your Needs: If possible, just stay home. Sometimes it’s easier to wait a couple of days than risk a car accident.
- Stay Alert: Remember to drive with more caution and keep an eye out for quickly changing conditions. Another car may lose traction and drift towards your car or off the road.
- Slow it Down: Snowy roads can cause your car to take ten times longer to stop completely.* Drive extra slowly, as this will help account for lower traction in the snow.
- Embrace The (Anti-) Freeze: Ensure that your anti-freeze is topped off, as this prevents the coolant mixture from freezing.
How to Drive on Ice
As dangerous as driving on snow can be, driving on icy roads can be even riskier. To know how to drive on icy roads, be sure to follow all our tips for driving in snow and colder conditions, plus these extra suggestions:
- Break Out the Chains: Use tire chains to increase your traction and help your ability to come to a stop.
- Go Easy on the Pedals: Accelerate and use your brakes very slowly, as driving as you would under normal conditions could lead to sliding on the ice.
- Give Yourself Space: Since it can take so much longer to stop, it’s vitally important to increase your stopping distance by as much as ten times the normal distance in dry conditions.
- Stay In Control: Never use cruise control under any circumstances, as this can increase the chances of the car sliding, and you should always be in control of the vehicle.
Winter Driving Safety FAQs
How often should I start my car in cold weather?
It’s important to start your car once a day during cold weather conditions, but not let it idle. You only need to run the car for a couple of minutes to ensure the lubrication of all engine parts safely. Anything longer isn’t necessary and can waste gas.
Is it safe to drive in the snow?
It can be safe to drive in the snow, it just takes a bit more precaution, awareness, and attention than driving at other times.
How fast should you drive in the snow?
Drive at whatever speed is best and safest for you. This could be no more than 20 miles an hour or it could be a bit faster depending on your comfort level, the conditions, and the behavior of the drivers around you.
Can you drive on snow without chains?
Yes, it can be done safely and effectively. However, it is much safer and easier to drive on the snow with chains, as they provide much-needed friction and stability. Just make sure to buy your chains before the first snowfall!
What gear should you drive in the snow?
Ideally, you should be in 1st or 2nd gear while driving in the snow. Not only will this keep your speed low, but it will also give the car and tires more power and traction in the snow, which is pivotal on slick winter roads.
Is it bad to leave snow on your car?
Yes, this can be incredibly dangerous to other drivers, as the snow and ice will fly off, potentially causing a mini blizzard and greatly decreasing other drivers’ visibility.
Drive More Safely This Winter with CPI Drive
With a little foresight and an abundance of caution, winter driving can be just as safe as driving during any other time of the year. For a little added peace of mind, consider installing a smart driving monitoring tool like CPI Drive. Get real-time speeding notifications, car location tracking, and even vehicle diagnostics sent directly to your phone so you can stay informed and make smart, safe winter driving decisions. For more information like this, visit the CPI blog to learn more.
*FHWA, “How Do Weather Events Impact Roads?.”