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Driving Safely in Winter Weather Conditions

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Defrosting Your Vehicle

Frost accumulation on your car windows and mirrors can become a driving hazard. Before getting behind the wheel, take a few minutes to defrost your vehicle by turning on the heat. You can also apply one-third cup of water and two-thirds cup of rubbing alcohol to your windows to quickly and easily defrost the glass.

Remember, clear (your windshield) before you steer!

Buckling Up Small Children

Heavy layers, such as winter coats, can prevent your toddler’s car seat from fitting properly. Instead, clothe your child in thin, warm layers of clothing so that their harness fits securely and safely across their chest. 

Driving Safely in Snow and on Icy Roads


Slow down for wet, snowy, or icy conditions. You will be more likely to maintain control of your vehicle at lower speeds. Slow down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady spots. These are all potential problem spots for black ice, which is a thin coating of clear ice that can form on the pavement surface that may be difficult to see especially at night.

Following Distance

Decrease your speed and leave plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three seconds of following distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.

Abrupt Maneuvers

Avoid excessive actions while steering, braking or accelerating to lessen the chances of losing control of the vehicle when you’re driving on snow, ice or wet roads.


Braking gently will help you avoid skidding. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), press the pedal down firmly and hold it. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, gently pump the pedal.


Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads. If your vehicle is equipped with Electronic-Stability Control (ESC), make sure it’s turned on. ESC will assist you in maintaining control of your vehicle if it loses traction. Keep your lights and windshield clean and turn on your lights to make you visible to other motorists.

Road Conditions

Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roadways, which tend to freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges. Be aware that road conditions are constantly changing.

Stay Alert

When driving in adverse weather conditions, look farther ahead in traffic than you normally do. Actions by other vehicles will alert you to problems more quickly, and may give you a split-second of extra time to react appropriately.

Cruise Control

Avoid using cruise control in winter driving conditions.

Remember: Winter conditions call for a different kind of driving than normal weather - slower speed, slower acceleration, smoother steering, and slower braking.

If Your Vehicle Starts to Skid

  • Take your foot off the accelerator.
  • Counter steer: The rear of your vehicle is sliding left, steer left into the skid. If it’s sliding right, steer right. Steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
  • If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse -- this is normal.

If You Get Stuck

  • Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  • Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
  • Use a light touch on the gas, to ease your car out.
  • Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.
  • If available, pour sand, cat litter, gravel, or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.