If you come from warmer climes and find yourself driving in a cold weather part of the country for the first time (hello, ski trip!), a little prep can make all the difference in terms of your comfort and safety. Here’s what newbies need to know about safely driving in the snow.

Be an informed traveler

Before you go anywhere, check the conditions along your route. That means getting current local weather reports and delaying your trip if necessary. Tell someone exactly where you’re going and when you expect to arrive at your destination. And always take a cell phone along with an extra battery or charger with you.

Dress the part

Make sure you have the right cold-weather necessities to stay warm and comfortable in freezing temps. Dress in layers to help insulate your body so you can easily adjust your temperature according to your environment. A good collection of winter clothing includes:

  • A water-resistant winter jacket with a hood
  • A warm hat that covers your ears
  • Waterproof, padded gloves
  • A scarf
  • Socks (wool ones work well) that wick away moisture
  • A good pair of boots that cover the ankle
  • Wool or fleece pants
  • Sunglasses

Prep your car

Take care to prepare your car for winter driving. That means you should:

  • Get a winter maintenance check up for your automobile. Check your tires and tire pressure for proper inflation and tread, as well as your engine fluids, brakes, wipers, heater and defroster, battery, lights, and more.
  • Make sure your gas tank’s full. You always want your tank to be above the half-tank mark when making trips in the winter.
  • Carry snow tire chains or cables. Tire chains or cables help supply much-needed traction when you’re driving on snow and ice. If you’re going to be driving in snowy conditions, make sure you’re carrying appropriate chains that are made to fit your vehicle. Check the manufacturer’s instructions and install as directed.
  • Pack a basic winter emergency survival kit. Your kit should include the basics in case of emergency: flashlight with extra batteries, a warm blanket, extra clothing, nonperishable food items, water, jumper cables, shovel, flares, a spare cellphone charger, and a first-aid kit.

Follow safe practices for driving in the snow

If driving on snow or ice is unavoidable, be sure to take these precautions:

  • Lights on. Always drive with your lights on in snowy or icy conditions.
  • Slow down. Driving slowly increases your traction and ability to brake. Accelerate and decelerate slowly to avoid skids, and remember to give yourself more time to brake when driving on snow or ice.
  • Don’t use cruise control. Never use cruise control on icy or snowy roads.
  • Give yourself space. Increase the distance between yourself and the nearest car to at least 5 or 6 seconds to give yourself the longer stopping distance you’ll need.
  • Stay calm in a skid. If you find yourself skidding, stay calm. Slowly release the gas, avoid steering sharply, and gently turn your wheels in the direction you want to go.
  • Brake wisely. Never slam on your brakes in snowy or icy conditions. If you need to brake, apply firm steady pressure using the ball of your foot, keeping your heel on the floor.
  • Stay with your vehicle. In the event of an accident or getting stuck, stay with your vehicle. Don’t wander off in a storm — use your car as a shelter, stay warm, and try to call or signal for help.

Make sure you have adequate winter insurance coverage

Check with your insurer to see what supplemental winter coverages they offer to help keep you protected during those cold weather months. From emergency roadside service, to rental car coverage and gap insurance, make sure you have a comprehensive policy in place that’s adequate to keep you safe.

Taking precautions to make sure both you and your vehicle are ready for cold weather conditions can help you can reduce the risks associated weather-related car accidents. Want to ensure you’ve got the right coverage? Get a personalized quote from Esurance today.

Safe and smart | Car safety | Travel hacks | Getting there


about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.