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Winter Driving Tips

rear wheel of car on a snowy road

The USDA Forest Service provides many tips for winter driving. Here are some highlights that can help you stay safe during the time of the year when roads are most difficult to travel.

Before you head out, be sure to check the current weather conditions and forecast. Safe planning is a key factor in reducing risk when traveling in less than perfect conditions.

Before You Travel

If you must drive in snowy or icy conditions, before you leave be sure to:

  • Let family or friends know that you are traveling and what your intended route and destination time is.
  • Have your cell phone in case of emergency. Be sure to charge it before you leave.
  • Keep your gas tank filled so that your care can start without difficulty, you do not need to worry about stopping to refuel. This also ensures that you have extra fuel that can be used in to heat the car longer if you must stop driving.
  • Be sure that your tires have the appropriate level of pressure and tread capability before you set out, as well.

Stay Safe on the Road

Once you are on the road, it is important to keep the following tips in mind.

  • When trying to go up a snowy or slippery hill, do so in the highest gear possible. This reduces the possibility of your tires spinning. Do not slam on the gas or gun the motor.
  • When navigating down a hill, stay in a low gear. This decreases your overall speed and the necessity to use the brakes, which reduces the amount of abrupt sliding caused by braking.
  • Keep in mind that if the gear is too low it increases the drag and may cause wheels to lock.
  • Most newer cars feature anti-lock brakes, which automatically “pump the brakes” to stop wheels from locking up. If your car does not have this feature and you find yourself not in control of your car, “pump” the brakes instead of slamming them with force.
  • Be cautious of drivers around you. All drivers react differently to snow and ice on the road. Keep extra distance between your car and others. Be aware that other drivers may be nervous, make rash decisions or drive with too much confidence in dangerous conditions. Always be on the lookout for possible accidents ahead.
  • Do not use cruise control in snowy and icy conditions. You are unable to control acceleration and deceleration as quickly and effectively when using cruise control, which are vital when driving in wintery conditions.
  • Just like the signs say: “Bridge May Be Icy.” Bridges and surfaces that experience times of intermittent dry and ice tend to freeze first and be more unpredictable than other roadways. Exercise caution when crossing these areas.
  • Think of the safety of others and yourself. If you find that you are unable to control your car in the conditions, it is much smarter (and safer) to slide into a snow drift, rather than a busy intersection.

More Resources

Road conditions

Check out the W.Va. Department of Transportation’s report on the current road conditions. Travelers can also call 1-877-982-7623 for information. 
Check road conditions in West Virginia at…

What to do if you’re trapped in your car

What should you do if a blizzard traps you in your car? Follow these suggestions from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Winter travel kits

Learn what the Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends including in a winter travel kit. See kit contents…