6 Driving Tips For When Snowpocalypse Strikes Again

Even though it’s pretty late in the year for wintery weather (spring officially starts on March 20th), the storm that recently blew through Utah proves that snow can and will return at the most inconvenient times. So, it’s never too late to refresh your driving skills with these tips for navigating icy, snowy, and generally bad roads.

1. Slow down

The very first thing you can and should do if you encounter a patch of less than ideal roadway is slow down. I know it’s frustrating, especially when going five miles over the speed limit is considered normal most days. It’s essential to maintaining control, however. Aside from giving you and everyone around you more time to react, you also allow your tires to get more grip with the ground and decrease your stopping distance. The likelihood of getting in a wreck decreases drastically with this simple step.

2. Steer into the slide

Living in an area that can have slick roads, this is a phrase you’ve probably heard a million times. If you’re like me, you nodded along to this sage advice without really understanding what it meant. Well, it’s time to decipher this code! When your rear wheels lose traction and start sliding to one side, turn your wheel in the direction that the back of your vehicle is going. I’ve found that, with enough driving experience, this is a bit of an instinctual process. Just keep your eyes where you want to go, and hand-eye coordination generally takes you in the right direction. The true danger often comes when you regain traction. People commonly react by jerking the wheel in the opposite direction, leading to over-correcting and the possibility of flipping. Remedy this by only making gentle turns during the experience.

3. Weigh down the back of the vehicle

If you are having a lot of problems with the rear end of your vehicle losing traction, add some more weight to the back. This will help the back wheels grip the roadway better and will hopefully keep sliding to a minimum. If you use something like sand or salt bags as the weight, these can serve a double purpose; the contents can be used for traction should your vehicle get stuck in the snow.

4. Don’t slam on the brakes

In the case of slick roads, pretty much any action that is too sudden can make you lose control of your vehicle. Accelerate too much? You can start to slide. Make too sharp of a turn? Yup, sliding is possible. Brake too hard?  Surprise, surprise—sliding is likely. If you do lose traction, it can be incredibly hard not to panic. All the same, do your best not to slam on the brakes while sliding, especially if that is how you lost control in the first place. This can cause the wheels to lock up and make the vehicle harder to control, even with ABS brakes. Instead, pump the brakes to slow down.

5. The gas can be your friend

Sliding isn’t the only possible consequence of bad roads. Snow and ice can easily trap a vehicle in place, but nobody wants to have to push a stuck car out of a drift. If you can feel your vehicle struggling to move forward, if at all possible, DO NOT STOP. In this situation, forward momentum is your friend. It won’t be a pleasant experience and your vehicle will probably have terrible handling, but just steer in the direction you want to go and keep up speed. Hopefully, it will be enough to push through the deep snow.

6. If roads are bad enough, just don’t go

I recently heard a snippet of sage advice that everyone should keep in mind: “Four-wheel drive just means you can get farther from civilization before you get stuck.” If road conditions are bad enough, seriously consider not going out. People understand when you have to cancel plans. Whatever it is you are considering braving the roads for, weigh how important it is against the cost of getting stuck or in a wreck. Any vehicle can get stuck, four-wheel drive or otherwise. Remember, your safety is paramount. When in doubt, don’t go out.

You may have noticed that, while the words “snow” and “ice” are definitely mentioned above, more often than not these tips work for a wide variety of bad roads. Unfortunately, the arrival of spring does not mean that the roads are suddenly perfect. People get into wrecks in winter, summer, and all the seasons in between. Keep these tips in mind for any relevant road conditions, and drive safely, everyone!

Images: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6