Highways covered in snow or ice can be a dangerous and difficult challenge, and therefore drivers cannot be too careful in those situations. Guidelines and tips on how to drive in snow and ice differ significantly from regular driving. It is not only about going slow. Fortunately, the most relevant existing information in that regard is listed below.
What Is Necessary to Know Before You Drive in Snow and Ice?
Before even thinking about entering a car to drive in snow or ice, there are requirements in the knowledge and technical fields that must be covered. As an introduction, our list begins with insurance coverage and the advantage of not being responsible for damages that may occur.
In the case of car hire, Insurance is necessary for all given driving situations, and therefore higher risk implies ensuring all possible losses and damages are covered. Rather than only get a CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) policy, remember that getting a car hire excess insurance is necessary. That is the only way to avoid disbursing hundreds or more than a thousand euros before the insurer pays anything.
The same recommendation applies if you are driving with a bigger vehicle. It is always safer to purchase a minibus or van hire excess insurance policy than risk a large bill.
The Correct Tires
With your vehicle duly insured, the first precaution is to use the correct tires. Technically speaking, tires must have at least 6/32-inch deep tread – even if you have an adequate winter tire – as that will guarantee proper traction in snow. If you are not sure about yours, it is probably safer to go to a tire store to check the depth.
Additionally, keep in mind the best all-season tires cannot compete with any kind of winter tires for driving in snow. To avoid any trouble and potential accidents on curves, get a full set and never just a couple of winter tires.
Know Your Region
Consider the worst possible driving scenario in your region – or wherever you are going to – and how often that situation may occur. That will tell you if all-season tires with enough depth are enough or if winter tires are worth the investment.
Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
In either snow or ice, ESC, present in most modern vehicles, can help you when the car starts to slide. Once again, having worn tires can be a huge problem, and ESC would not save you.
All-Wheel Drive (AWD)
AWD provides forward traction and keeps your vehicle moving, even in deep snow and on steep driveways. However, please do not rely on AWD on curves, as there is not where its importance lies, and double precautions when turning.
Windows and Lights
Replace the windshield wipers of your car, van or whatever vehicle you will use if you are not sure of their reliability. Should the road ahead offer heavy snow, get some wiper blades proper for driving in winter. Also, before leaving the garage, clean both sides of the windows to ensure clear visibility.
As additional measures, apply any water-shedding material of good quality and fill the washer system with anti-icing fluid. Being ready to see the road ahead, double-check your headlights to ensure others will see you too.
Skid and Breaks
Memorize the three steps to properly activate the ABS (Anti-lock braking system) of your ESC: Stomp on the pedal, stay hard and steer smoothly to circumvent the obstacle.
Front-tire skids require additional awareness, too: release the accelerator and let the vehicle slow down first – trying to push the brake or turning the steering wheel is useless. Rear slides are more problematic and require practice drivers can acquire in driving schools. To be safe, follow the instructions above and the tips below, and you might not need it.
Dos and Don’ts When Driving in Snow and Ice
- Stay Put If You Can. Sometimes even skilled drivers should respect the force of nature and wait until conditions get better.
- Increase Safety Distance. Double the car following distance for a better safety margin.
- Stay Alert. Keep your feet ready and your heel on the floor for using the break if necessary.
- Go Slow. Adjust the regular speed down because of lower traction, and apply much less pressure when accelerating or decelerating.
- Make Unnecessary Stops. The inertia difference makes it much harder to move from a complete stop rather than keep on moving. If it is possible to slow down, prefer that.
- Exaggerate on Hills. Accumulate some inertia before reaching the hill, as pushing more gas into hills covered in snow may lead to a spin. For obvious reasons, reduce speed when going downhill.
- Stop on a Hill. If inertia is necessary to climb it properly, imagine the problems resulting from trying to stop along the way.
How to Drive in Snow and Ice for a Long Distance?
Do Your Checks. Ensure you have an insurance policy for possible damages, losses, and the respective excess policy for your car or van. Also, have your vehicle checked by a professional facility, and verify if you have all the necessary equipment for long-distance winter trips (light, clothes, food, fuel).
Weather App. Install an app that will adequately provide information on the weather conditions ahead while you drive.
Inform Others First. Before leaving, let others know your route and destination. Conditions may become too severe for you to ask for help, and they might prove useful.
Stay With Your Vehicle. If you are somehow stuck, remember the vehicle is a shelter and how others may find you.
Make Stops. Everybody needs pauses, so make a proper and safe stop when necessary to reload your energies.
Light. You will have checked your vehicle lights, so make sure to keep yourself visible using them and perhaps even the dome light.
Check the Exhaust Pipe. Snow, ice, or mud may clog the exhaust pipe of your vehicle. Therefore, establish a routine of checking it from time to time. Its blockage can result in intoxication by carbon monoxide.
Thermal Insulation. As you are following our tips and packed well, make sure to keep yourself and whoever is with you warm.
What to Do When It Starts to Snow?
In case it starts to snow, and you were not prepared for whatever reason, go slow. From then on, double alertness and preventively brake and steer steadily. If possible, check any weather alerts and figure if your trip will get any more complicated.
When conditions do not seem favorable, consider going back and either wait for fair weather or prepare according to our tips.
Extra Tips on Safe Driving
- It is never too much emphasizing the importance of going slow in adverse conditions such as driving in snow and ice.
- Wear the seatbelt regardless of comfort reasons.
- Even if it is not a long drive, have gear and supplies in your car. Even those who know how to drive a car in snow and ice may get stuck.
- Do not wait for a $1000 bill to understand the importance of getting excess insurance on top of your regular policy.
- Keep your fuel tank at least half full.
- Do not warm up your vehicle in an enclosed area, such as your garage.
- Do not activate cruise control on slippery surfaces, such as when driving in snow or ice.
- Read all tips in this article a second time and keep notes that can save your life.