There’s nothing like the freedom in being able to just jump in the car to get where you’re going. At least, in the summer months. During the winter, bad weather and dangerous road conditions can seriously impact that feeling of mobility and freedom that usually comes with driving. Not everyone knows how to drive in snow. When visibility is poor, weather and road conditions are unpredictable, and not everyone is prepared to outfit their cars for winter. Both you and the other drivers quickly become a bigger hazard in the winter months. The holidays add another layer of complication, with all the extra traveling. With these six snow driving tips, we’ll help you stay safe on the roads, even in terrible winter conditions, so you and your family can enjoy all that the season has to offer and still feel safe.

Here are 6 Snow driving tips

Invest in winter tires

If you live in a place that gets very little snow, it’s tempting to hold off on getting your winter tires. Maybe you think to drag that out as far into the season as possible will save the money and hassle. But even if you get only a little snow, sudden storms can leave you stranded. Road sand and salt used on highways can seriously damage your vehicle over time. Make switching to winter tires something you plan as soon as the temperature drops. This way, you’ll move smoothly into winter, knowing you’re prepared for anything.

Buy or DIY an emergency Winter Car Kit

Accidents and emergencies can happen on the road at any time of year. But they’re particularly common in winter. You can buy emergency car kits, or make your own.

Essentials include:

  • Antifreeze, windshield wiper fluid, and a scraper, which you’re likely to use almost daily in the winter months!
  • A flashlight, so you can see what’s coming.
  • Road flares, so others can see you.
  • Equip your car with a best off-road winch,  shovel, and some kitty litter or rock salt in case if you get stuck in the snow.
  • A basic first aid kit, just in case.
  • Extra blankets, and extra non-perishable foods, because you never know how long it’ll take to get help.

Drive slowly to stay safe

Keep in mind that getting anywhere in winter will take you longer. Drivers in a hurry is a major factor to the dangers of winter driving. Give yourself the extra time, and pay attention to weather warnings. That may mean waking up early or getting home late. But there’s nothing more valuable than keeping a clear head on icy roads. Even if you think you’re a safe driver, other drivers might not be, so leave more space than you ordinarily would. Using turn signals becomes even more important in the winter when visibility is low, and one lane is already disappearing under snow banks.

Easy on the brakes

It sounds counter-intuitive. But when you’re driving in icy conditions, the absolute worst thing to do is to stop suddenly. The car continues moving in whatever direction it was moving when the brakes were applied. This leaves you sliding and jerking, sometimes a foot or two before you stop completely. It can also create a glazed spot under your tires, making you slip and slide even more. This is also why it’s so important to put distance between yourself and other cars. For that always carry a tire chain on your car. Pick the best tire chain for your car. It’ll give your car more friction so you get more control.  Everything will take you longer in winter, including stopping. Shift gears smoothly as you can. As you brake, continue to steer to avoid locking your brakes and skidding on an unexpectedly slippery patch of road.

Keep your gas tank and battery full and charged

It takes more power to warm the battery in cold weather. Electricity gets eaten up a lot faster in the cold than it does in warmer weather, so it’s important to make sure your battery is fully charged wherever you go. Having jumper cables always on hand is helpful. Fuel is also a concern. AAA (American Automobile Association) recommends keeping your gas at least half full at all times during the winter months, to avoid freezing your fuel line, which can be disastrous on the road.

Take good care of your car and yourself

Little problems can become big problems in winter conditions. Getting your car in for a tuneup before the first snow falls should be the first step. Keep a keen eye out for the way your car handles, and be mindful of issues. Even little issues can pose a danger in bad conditions. It’s also important to understand your driving. Are you an aggressive driver? Remember to smooth out your accelerations, and give yourself space. Do you have a need for speed? Be mindful of sharp breaks, and keep it slow and steady to avoid losing your much-needed traction. Whatever you struggle with, you can expect problems to magnify on wet, icy roads. Keep yourself as visible as possible by using your blinker and keeping your headlights on as much as possible. If you do get stranded, a brightly colored ribbon tied to your antenna, or wearing a reflector vest will help you with visibility in snowy weather.

Driving in winter conditions can be nerve-wracking for many reasons. However, if you prepare well, with a good emergency kit, and by taking care of your car, and you drive slowly and carefully while being mindful of other drivers, you can ensure you have the highest chance of always getting where you’re going safely. With the right preparation, even if you do find yourself stranded, you’ll know how to stay safe until help arrives. You might even be able to rescue yourself!