How to Drive Safely in a Snowstorm

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About: 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 then sharing what I've learned on Instructables and on my...

Intro: 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

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

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!

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!

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!

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

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

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

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!

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    29 Discussions

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    friger

    1 year ago

    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!

    2 replies
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    KellyCraigfriger

    Reply 1 year ago

    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.

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    DouglasC10friger

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks friger! Stay warm up there!

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    KellyCraig

    1 year ago

    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.

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    tomasina

    1 year ago

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

    1 reply
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    DouglasC10tomasina

    Reply 1 year ago

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

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    tomasina

    1 year ago

    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 :-) ?

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    ltjbone

    1 year ago

    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.

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    DouglasC10ltjbone

    Reply 1 year ago

    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!

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    narcoth

    1 year ago

    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!

    1 reply
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    DouglasC10narcoth

    Reply 1 year ago

    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!

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    mach1950

    1 year ago

    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!

    3 replies
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    DouglasC10mach1950

    Reply 1 year ago

    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!

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    mach1950DouglasC10

    Reply 1 year ago

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

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    DouglasC10mach1950

    Reply 1 year ago

    Now you've got me laughing with an accent!

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    ffrisell

    1 year ago

    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.

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    DouglasC10ffrisell

    Reply 1 year ago

    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!

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    nell137

    1 year ago

    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!

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    DouglasC10nell137

    Reply 1 year ago

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

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    nell137DouglasC10

    Reply 1 year ago

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