Introduction: How to Drive Safely in a Snowstorm

Picture of How to Drive Safely in a Snowstorm

The best advice for driving safely in a snowstorm is to postpone your trip. Emergency vehicles and snow plows need people to stay off the roads because accidents can block the road, preventing them from doing their jobs. (I made my trip in a snowstorm because my elderly father needed his medication from the pharmacy.)

Step 1: Step 1: Clean Off Your Car for Good Visibility

Picture of Step 1: Clean Off Your Car for Good Visibility


See the videos in the comments section below that show what can happen when you don't clean the snow off your car's roof. Its dangerous. I did not know that. I'll let my original instructions remain the same though cuz its interesting to see how the Instructables Community can enlighten the instructor. Thanks for all your comments and being respectful.

Use a snowbrush to clear your windshield. If you don't have a snowbrush you can put on gloves and wipe the snow off with your hands. To scrape ice off your windshield you can use a credit card, but it may ruin the credit card. If you run the defroster long enough it may melt the snow and ice. In any case, don't drive without clearing the windshield so you can see the road.

Clear snow off the hood because when you get going it will blow onto the windshield. Clear the headlights and tail lights or they will be useless because the snow will block the light.

I've had people scold me for not clearing snow off the roof, saying it will fly off and hit the car behind me and cause an accident. This is unrealistic because every tractor trailer on the road will have tons more snow on its roof, which could fly off and hit cars behind it. I've never heard of this hazard causing an accident, so the tiny amount of snow that may fly off my roof isn't worth worrying about, (although scolders will always worry). Ruin their day by ignoring them. Edit: Don't listen to me on this, see the videos below of snow and ice flying off car roofs and damaging other cars. (I was wrong... that hardly ever happens.)

Step 2: Step 2: Bang Your Boots!

Picture of Step 2: Bang Your Boots!

Here's a tip: Bang your boots together to get the snow off before putting your feet inside the car. This prevents you from getting a lot of snow inside your car.

Step 3: Step 3: Slow Down, Way Down!

Picture of Step 3: Slow Down, Way Down!

You'll need more distance to stop while driving in the snow. It will take you longer to accelerate too, and if you try to hurry by stomping on the gas you will lose traction, causing your tires to slip and your car to fishtail. So easy does it.

Step 4: Step 4: Watch Out for Lunatics!

Picture of Step 4: Watch Out for Lunatics!

The Number One Hazard when driving in a snowstorm is inexperienced drivers. They go too fast and think they can control their vehicle. But when they learn they can't, they may slide right into you. If you're going at a sane speed and they pass you at Lunatic speed, you can't do anything about it. But you can ignore them if they tailgate you. You can continue to move slow and steady and possibly have the satisfaction of watching them slide off the road while you roll on. That happened to me once, as I explain in my video on how to drive safely in a snowstorm, (click on the picture above because it'll start when I tell the story), so check it out!

Step 5: Step 5: Practice in a Parking Lot

Picture of Step 5: Practice in a Parking Lot

To become an experienced driver, go to an empty parking lot that's snow covered and do a few donuts. Try stopping and starting and see how your car will handle in the snow. Learning in an empty parking lot is better than learning in traffic. If a cop asks you why you're doing donuts in a parking lot tell him I said it was okay and direct him to my youtube video on the subject. If he gives you a ticket anyway, I apologize. (No, I won't reimburse you.)

Step 6: Step 6: Keep Your Windows Clear the Easy Way

Picture of Step 6: Keep Your Windows Clear the Easy Way

When at a stop light, clear the snow from your windows by lowering them halfway, then raising them. (If you lower them all the way then snow falls off your windows and into your car.)

Run the defroster correctly: Set the temperature to a comfortable level, not as hot as it will go. Then set the fan to medium or high speed to increase the air circulation within the vehicle. That way you don't have to keep adjusting it if you get uncomfortably warm. You need to concentrate on driving, not fussing with the defroster. But have the defroster on, working to reduce the fog on the interior windows.

Step 7: Step 6: Raise Your Wipers When Parked

Picture of Step 6: Raise Your Wipers When Parked

When you get where you're going, make scraping snow off your windshield easier by raising your wipers as shown in the photos. That way they don't get frozen into the ice and snow on your windshield, which makes it easier to scrape your windshield. It will also keep you from damaging the rubber wiper blades.

There are other little tips and tricks in my video that come from my lifetime of experience driving in snowstorms, so check it out And please be safe out there!


friger (author)2016-12-15

Being a Canadian and living in a fairly wintery area of the country, and working in the transportation logistics field for the past 20 years (my word, has it been that long?), the most important thing I can add is this. If your wheels aren't rolling and you are still in motion then you have no control. Use your gears to slow down if you find your self in this situation. Even an automatic transmission has gears available to use. Oh, and to all the 4WD vehicle owners (I'm one), you are not invincible, Slow down!

KellyCraig (author)friger2016-12-27

I've made it off a mountain with a ninety degree turn at the bottom (a jeep and a station wagon failed to make the turn) by resorting to seemingly counter intuitive measures.

On the way down the hill, the engine compression kept locking up the rear wheels. I had to go to higher gears as each lower gear locked the tires up. Braking threw the truck sideways, but helped a little. I'd keep braking (very lightly), go sideways, let off, straighten up and start again.

Near the bottom, I put the truck in high, eased the clutch out, gave it a LITTLE gas, then cut for the inside of the corner. I pulled around the corner fine. Had it not gone so well, I was willing to even grab a bit of the ditch, rather than be thrown across the road by centrifugal force.

Always be looking for the landing spot.

DouglasC10 (author)friger2016-12-15

Thanks friger! Stay warm up there!

KellyCraig (author)2016-12-27

My dad was State Highway foreman for the North Cross Highway when it opened. He had his men kick their pickups into neutral coming down the hill to deal with the engine pushing the rear tires as the front disk brakes locked up the front. They quit losing vehicles to the ditches.

Of course, it's a good idea to be ready to pull the vehicle back into gear on a second's notice, to power out of a situation.

tomasina (author)2016-12-19

the question mark is supposed to be a Santa. Merry Christmas!

DouglasC10 (author)tomasina2016-12-20

Thanks tomasina, and all you other commenters. Merry Christmas!

tomasina (author)2016-12-19

thank you for the ible. I am originally from California & now reside on the east coast, which I love. I have had to teach myself to drive in the snow & ice. Everything you said was not only right on but imho common sense.....except for the roof thing :-) ?

ljohnson69 (author)2016-12-16

My biggest concern during a snowstorm is the other drivers. On one end are the lunatics in a hurry to get somewhere that probably isnt very important. On the other end are people scared out of their minds driving at or below a walking pace. Both driver's mindset don't allow for good decision making and don't belong on the road.

DouglasC10 (author)ljohnson692016-12-17

You're right, other drivers are the main hazard when driving in snow. Better slower than way too fast but both are dangerous. Since I published this Instructable I'm now getting ads for a lawyer looking to find people injured by reckless drivers so they can sue for you. Interesting algorithm driving those ads. They even are timed to run when the forecast calls for snow. We live in an amazing world, amazing time! Thanks for the tip, ljohnson69!

narcoth (author)2016-12-16

One handy trick I found to keep snow and ice off of or out of the side mirrors is to tie plastic shopping bags around the mirrors.

In Oklahoma ice storms it's rather difficult to get ice off of a non heated mirror. this helps a bunch!

DouglasC10 (author)narcoth2016-12-17

Great tip because I've got hundreds of those bags I mean to recycle and that's putting 2 to good use! Can't wait to try it, thanks narcoth!

mach1950 (author)2016-12-13

Douglas the only negative I can see is that you're driving one-handed, and that's not a good thing that possibly inexperienced people may copy. :-)

We don't get much snow in Western Australia but thanks for the great 'able anyway!

DouglasC10 (author)mach19502016-12-13

Gotta admit, sometimes I was driving no handed...

Hope no one else is that stupid...

I hope you get to visit the USA someday as I hope to visit Australia. Love the accents and the people seem to be pretty laid back. Thanks for your comments!

mach1950 (author)DouglasC102016-12-14

Ha, we are mostly pretty laid back mate, but you're the ones with the accent. ?

DouglasC10 (author)mach19502016-12-15

Now you've got me laughing with an accent!

ffrisell (author)2016-12-15

Great Instructable! I would just add that taking off the snow from the roof is a good idea - also for yourself. Driving in Sweden, I have several times experienced the somewhat scary surprise when you break hard the first time and all that roof snow (your own) slides down on your front windshield. This may happen in around freezing temperature when you have a lot of wet heavy snow on your roof and the interior heat eventually starts melting it from below. And no, your windshield vipers will not be able to remove it... You have to get out on the road and do it yourself.

DouglasC10 (author)ffrisell2016-12-15

I've had that happen and it is quite an unpleasant surprise. So we've got two reasons to remove the snow from the roof, two directions it can go. Lots of good input from all over, now from Sweden. Thanks!

nell137 (author)2016-12-14

In PA, it's the law to remove snow from all areas of your vehicle, roof included. idk other state's laws, but be forewarned if you're in PA!

DouglasC10 (author)nell1372016-12-14

Thanks for the heads up! (I've driven in a blizzard in PA.)

nell137 (author)DouglasC102016-12-14

I'm sure it's worse up north, but don't get busted for our weird (but useful!) laws! Great 'Ible, BTW!!

DouglasC10 (author)nell1372016-12-15

Well you've got mountains in PA, so its worse there.

Willard2.0 (author)2016-12-14

Most of your advice is great. Especially slow down and don't make any sudden inputs (throttle, breaks, steering).

The only bad thing that you suggested is to not clean off the snow from your vehicle's roof. That is
foolish and irresponsible. With your car being very warm inside, the
snow on the roof melts a bit then refreezes when you park. This creates
a thick layer of ice that can easily break free once you reach highway

You mentioned that you have not heard of snow causing an
accident. I live in northern Alberta, Canada. Incidents like this make the news once or twice each winter. Here are four videos showing exactly what can happen if you
are irresponsible and leave snow on the roof of your vehicle.

DouglasC10 (author)Willard2.02016-12-15

THANK YOU Willard2.0! I didn't know that and you provided proof. I stand corrected and you were polite about it. So I immediately edited Step 1 of my Instructable, letting my original bonehead comments stand to illustrate how the community of commenters can add so much to an Instructable. Thanks again!

Eirinn (author)Willard2.02016-12-14

Definitely take the snow off the roof! It's annoying to drive behind a vehicle with snow on top, at worst the snow can come off in clumps. It's so easy to brush off the top. Do it for other's sake.

Phil B (author)2016-12-13

I grew up driving in snow. A manual transmission gives more control. Sometimes 1st gear provides too much torque and it is best to start in 2nd gear. When stuck, rock the car back and forth to get enough momentum to get out of the rut. When approaching a stop sign where the intersection is slicked with packed, icy snow; slip the transmission on your automatic into neutral and use a very light touch on the brakes to avoid locking the wheels. Start slow and stop slow. Leave lots of distance between you and all other cars. Load extra weight over the drive wheels for better traction.

DouglasC10 (author)Phil B2016-12-13

Good stuff Phil! I never knew to try second gear when starting out, also hitting neutral. Next time I'm in snow in an automatic, I'll give it a try. Thanks!

Phil B (author)DouglasC102016-12-13

About thirty years ago we had a big Mercury station wagon. Our street had a slight downward grade as it come to a stop sign on a fairly busy main street. The last one hundred feet became slick. When I tried braking gently, I needed enough brake pedal to overcome the big engine that the wheels locked up and the car went into a skid. I hit on the idea of putting the car into neutral three or four car lengths, maybe more, before the intersection. I could apply featherweight pressure on the brake pad and avoid wheel lock-up and skid. Once stopped I could put the car back into Drive.
The idea of starting in second gear with some snow situations was actually in our driver training textbook. It sounded counter-intuitive to me, but I used it a few times and it worked just fine. It was mostly for situations where you feared breaking traction and spinning the wheels. You had to nurse the clutch fairly carefully.
When we lived in Tennessee for a time I saw people driving around in pickup trucks because something big was supposed to be better in snow. There might be three or four guys in the cab. When the wheels began to spin, the extra people got out and pushed. I thought if only they would just sit in the back of the truck they would do better, and there would be no danger someone would slip under a wheel.

Jackassofalltrades (author)2016-12-13

You grew up in Ann Arbor? Cute. I grew up in the Swiss Alps at an altitude of 4500 ft above sea level and a latitude that would be north of Copper Harbor somewhere out on Lake Superior. Meanwhile, I've become a part-time Michigander, albeit not in da UP but in Leelanau County, which is still waaayyy north of A2, with heavy lake effect snow and suchlike.

Ok, just teasing, but it's amazing how many Michiganders don't know how to drive in winter. One particular risk is the belief that 4WD makes you safer. It may enable you to better get up a hill, but that's just about all.

Anyway, like you I love driving on snowy roads and can confirm pretty much everything you mentioned. Many thanks! And Phil B has some very good points too. Treat both the accelerator and the brake as if there were a raw egg between your foot and the pedal. Really.

Hi Jack! Thanks for the input. Michiganders will tell you how many Michiganders dont know how to drive in the snow. I get passed a lot by Lunatics and they make our roads dangerous. That's why my first point is to stay off the roads if possible. Good advice on the raw egg and Phil's input is good too. Hopefully people who see this instructable will read the comments for more good tips. Thanks!

About This Instructable




Bio: I love being outdoors, hiking, camping, kayaking and appreciating Nature. I love figuring things out and using my head and hands in creative ways and ... More »
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