How to drive safely in the snow, sleet and other winter storms

With winter here, weather reports of rain, snow, fog and sleet are predicted for the months to come. Before hitting the road, consider these tips to drive safely in wintry storms.

Tis the season to be jolly — and cold. With winter here, weather reports of rain, snow, fog and sleet are predicted for the months to come. As such, driving conditions can be treacherous. Before hitting the road, consider these tips to drive safely in wintry storms.

Check the weather before driving

Before getting in the car and driving anywhere, check the most recent weather report. If a major storm is predicted, reconsider if you need to drive. If your errand can wait, it’s safer to stay at home than drive into a storm. Knowing the road conditions can help you stay safe and prepare in advance for what lies ahead.

Prep your car

Before inclement weather strikes, prepare your car for winter driving conditions and conduct a full safety check. This includes inspecting your windshield wipers, topping off windshield wiper fluid, testing the car’s defrosters, checking tire pressure and ensuring that all the lights work. Drivers should also keep items like an ice scraper, jumper cables, flashlight, blanket and a small shovel in the trunk.

Avoid cruise control

Cruise control has its perks. It can save gas and help drivers maintain a safe, controlled speed. However, cruise control can be dangerous when engaged during inclement weather, like rain and snow. When it rains heavily, water pools on the road. If your tires can't squeeze the water through the tire tread, your car will be sliding on the water — called "hydroplaning." Slamming on the brakes is the most dangerous thing you can do when you start to hydroplane. To disengage cruise control, you need to push on the brakes, making it a dangerous habit.

It may seem obvious, but avoid cruise control during bad weather. Manually driving the car will you give you more control and increase your chances of staying safe when driving in bad weather.

Listen to the road

When you are driving on slush or snow, you'll often hear snow crunching underneath the tires. You’ll also see the spray of snow on the side of the road. If you no longer hear snow crunching underneath your car, nor see snow and ice spray on the side of the road, you're likely entering a black ice area of the road. If you realize you are driving on black ice, don’t slam on your breaks. Instead, ease off the gas and hold your steering wheel steady.

Pay attention to other drivers

Whether it’s rainy or sunny outside, it’s crucial to pay attention to other cars and their driving patterns. When it’s snowing or raining, it’s especially important to watch what other cars are doing. Always stay at least three or four seconds behind the car in front of you. If the car in front of you suddenly slows down or stops, you’ll have time to safely slow down, too.

Turn into a slide

Rain and snow on the roads can cause your car to slide. If this happens, you need to know what to do to avoid an accident:

  1. Don’t hit your breaks
  2. Turn into the slide
  3. Don’t panic and over-correct

Turn on the lights

Being seen is one of the most important things you can do while driving. You might be the safest driver, but you can't trust others who are on the road. Always turn on the lights of your car in the morning and early evening. Winter storms and fog make visibility difficult, so keep your lights on automatic to keep yourself safe when driving in inclement weather.

You should pay attention to the road when driving to avoid distractions, regardless of the weather. However, these additional safety measures can help you stay safe in winter weather.