How to drive on snow and ice

More snow expected before temperatures drop (PHOTO KOMO News)

Driving on snow is tricky and downright dangerous on icy roads.

AAA says the best advice is don't drive but if you have to venture out in the snow, drive slowly to account for the lower traction snow and ice gives you.

Make sure you accelerate and decelerate slowly to keep from skidding and remember it takes more time and space to slow down on snowy roads. Give yourself more following distance. Increase it to five or six seconds. That will give a higher margin of error is someone in front of you slams on the brakes or something happens.

AAA says adjust your braking habits. Keep your heel on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply steady pressure.

Don't stop if you can avoid it because that's when you can get stuck. AAA says, "There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it."

Be steady going up hills. Applying too much gas will just make your wheels spin and don't stop unless you have to. It's a sure way to get stuck.

The Washington State Patrol says if you get into a skid, the first thing to do is let off the gas, then steer in the direction you want the car to go.

Wait for your car to regain traction and then gently accelerate. "Driving in the snow is not rocket science. The problem is we tend to come out and drive over our capability," says Trooper Keith Leary.

If you get stuck, Leary says don't abandon your car or truck. AAA advises you tie a brightly colored ribbon to your antenna or hang a cloth from your window as a distress signal.

Make sure the exhaust is clear so fumes don't build up inside your car and stay warm. AAA says, "Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps. Pre-pack blankets and heavy clothing to use in case of an emergency."

Conserve fuel. Run your car only long enough to remove the chill.

It always helps to be prepared:

  • Keep a bundle of cold-weather gear in your car, such as extra food and water, warm clothing, a flashlight, a glass scraper, blankets, medications, and more.
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread.
  • Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
  • Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface, such as on ice and snow.


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