Dealing with Ice and Snow, Oh My!


From record lows in California to record snow in Texas, snow and ice are on many driver’s minds.

Here are some “rules of the road” for driving on snow and ice.

(1.) Don’t drive beyond your skill level.

If driving on snow and ice is new to you, then first practice in a parking lot. Start, stop and make a few turns. Know when your wheels start to break traction. If you have a tach, learn how to use it so you are better aware whenever the tires break traction.

(2.) Plan your trips.

Minimize travel. About one-quarter of crashes are weather related. Only travel as absolutely necessary. Top off the fuel tank and check air in the tires. Keep extra blankets and provisions in the vehicle.

(3.) Go slow.

We can’t control the weather, but we can control our speed. Snow and ice are enemies of traction and without traction there is no way to control the vehicle. An apt expression is that of the U.S. Navy Seals: “Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.” You can’t go too slow, especially in icy conditions. In Michigan (calling itself the Winter Wonderland), drivers can get a speeding ticket even at 10MPH or less, if that speed is “too fast for conditions.”

(4.) Keep a space cushion.

Increase the following distance and allow more time to slow and for turns and curves.

(5.) Never spin the tires.

spinning on ice

Tires get hot. Warm tires melt packed snow and can form ice. Spinning the tires means the wheels have broken traction. Use sand to regain traction in a parking lot. Another winter trick on snow is to start off in a higher gear. Until the ground is frozen, stay on firm, yard surfaces as gravel or pavement. Know how to properly use your axle interlock, if your vehicle is so equipped.

From my observations, it seems it takes drivers about a week or two to adjust their style of driving to winter conditions. Take it slow, drive defensively, and you will probably get there.

Related . . . Driving in Hazardous Conditions