Tips for driving in the snow
Learn everything you need to know about driving in snow with some helpful winter driving tips from your friends at Root.
Driving in snow for the first time
Whether you’re moving to a city where it snows a lot or you’re visiting one for a period of time, it’s a good idea to educate yourself about driving in rough weather conditions.
If you live in a state where the winters are quite harsh, like Colorado, there are likely laws in place to promote safe winter driving.
Here are a few tips for driving in the snow for the first time:
Consider investing in new tires. If you live in a state that has a very snowy winter season, it might be a good idea to look into getting all-weather mud and snow tires. These will help you better maintain your traction while driving on ice and in slush snow.
Buy snow chains. In Colorado, due to its rough winters, drivers are required by the chain law (when the CDOT puts them into effect) to install tire chains during especially brutal weather.
Mind your speed. When driving on slick roads, you’ll need to make sure to keep your speed low. If you have tire chains for snow traction, you should keep your speed at no more than 20-30 mph – or even slower, depending on the conditions. Any faster could result in a loss of traction control and cause a collision.
Don’t tailgate. This is an important driving tip for every type of weather but especially during the winter when the roads and highways are slippery. Make sure to leave plenty of distance between yourself and whoever is in front of you (think 5-6 seconds).
Glance in your rearview mirror. When you are changing your speed, it’s a good idea to glance in your rearview mirror to make sure the driver behind you is still maintaining a safe distance.
Scan your surroundings. And make sure you know what’s happening as far in front of you as possible. This way, you can be prepared for any traffic issues if they should arise.
How slow should you drive in snow?
It’s important to remember that it takes much longer to slow down when the roads are icy. For your safety and the safety of the drivers around you, you’ll need to drive much slower than you might be used to in snowy weather.
In harsh winter weather, it’s a good idea to decrease your speed by at least half. So if the speed limit is 60 mph, you should rest at around 30 mph or less.
As mentioned above, if you have tire chains, you’ll want to keep your speed at no more than 20-30 mph.
Should you drive in a lower gear in snow?
Shifting to a lower gear while driving in ice and snow can be very helpful, especially if you’re driving downhill. Your car will move slower and also be easier for you to control.
You’ll also get some extra torque so the tires will have more power and you should gain better traction as a result.
How to get a car out of snow
If you find yourself stranded in the snow, the first thing you should do is try to stay calm. There are a few steps you can take to try and free your vehicle so you can get back on the road again.
Clear the snow from around your tires. This is so the car will have room to move back and forth when you’re attempting to free it. This is an important step, especially if you don’t have all-weather tires. You’ll need as much room as possible.
Reverse, neutral, drive, neutral, repeat. Switching between gears can help shake away some of the snow that’s trapping your wheels in place. However, you must do so as carefully as possible to protect your car’s transmission. Pausing on neutral between gears can help with that. Go easy on the gas, pressing too hard can make the problem worse.
Create your own traction. There are many things you can use to provide your tires with some traction such as sand, salt, or even dirt. Pile any of these under your wheels and try to slowly press the gas pedal again. If your vehicle has traction control built in, disable it while you try to free your car. The traction control built into vehicles prevents the wheels from spinning out. Which is helpful if you’re driving on slick roads, but not if you’re stuck in the snow.
Group effort. If you’ve got passengers in your car, they could help. Someone could press the gas while others push the vehicle from behind until it’s free.
If you’ve exhausted all of your available resources, and you still can’t get your car out of the snow, call for help.
Did you know that Root policyholders receive 24/7 Roadside Assistance with every policy? Need a jump-start, fuel delivery, or tow? We can handle that and more.
FWD in snow vs AWD in snow
You might be wondering—is a FWD good in snow? The majority of passenger cars are front-wheel drive, and they can be very good to have in winter conditions.
This is because the bulk of the car’s weight is on the drive tires (front two wheels), which helps with traction. Drive tires are designed for the drive axles and they offer optimized traction on a variety of driving surfaces.
If you’re installing snow chains on your vehicle, the drivetrain will dictate the minimum number of tires that need to be chained in hazardous weather conditions.
If your car is rear-wheel drive, the chains need to go on the back two wheels. If your car is front-wheel drive, the chains need to go on the front two wheels. Lastly, if your car is all-wheel drive, you should chain all four wheels.
How to drive on black ice
First off, what is black ice?
This is a very dangerous type of ice as it’s very thin and transparent, making it blend into the roads very well and appear to be black like the pavement. This ability to blend in is where black ice gets its name from. You’ll often find it on overpasses or similar structures where the driving surfaces are covered.
You might be wondering—where does black ice come from? Let’s say the temperature reaches freezing levels and it snows. Then, the next morning, the temperature rises and the sun melts the snow.
Now, the roads are wet. And if it drops below freezing again, black ice is highly likely to form due to the slick roads experiencing another abrupt temperature drop. It can also form if the temperature happens to fall below freezing during a thick fog.
Since you wouldn’t be able to see black ice and prepare for it, make sure you’re making safe decisions on the road during the winter months. Mind your speed, and if you do come across it, don’t panic.
Simply keep your wheel even and don’t slam your brakes as you could spin out of control and crash. If it’s safe to do so (no cars close by), take your foot off of the gas and allow the vehicle to slide to a full stop on its own.
Winter driving got you stressed?
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