AAA tips for driving safe in snow, ice

Cars.com's Joe Wiesenfelder provides winter driving tips to get you and your car through the season safely.

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WVEC) -- As people are preparing for the expected snow storm this weekend, AAA crews are on standby to help stranded drivers. 

“We are staffed up and ready to help motorists stranded by the roadside during this round of inclement weather,” said Tammy Arnette, Senior Public Affairs Specialist for AAA.  

Some areas of Hampton Roads could see over a foot of snow, making driving conditions dangerous. 

AAA says drivers should take the following precautions while dealing with winter conditions:

  • Remove all snow from vehicle, including roof, hood, and trunk. While driving, snow can blow off a car onto the windshield of a nearby vehicle, temporary blinding that driver’s vision.
  • Slow down. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself ample room to stop. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you. Accelerate, turn and brake gradually.
  • Do not tailgate. Normal following distances of three to four seconds on dry pavement should be a minimum of five to six seconds when driving on slippery surfaces. The extra time will provide additional braking room should a sudden stop become necessary.
  • Watch the traffic ahead. Slow down immediately at the sight of brake lights, skidding vehicles or emergency flashers.
  • Bridges and overpasses freeze first and melt last.  Use extra caution as the roadway leading to the bridge may appear fine but the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
  • Never use cruise control on slippery roads, as you lose the ability to transfer more weight to the front tire by simply lifting off the accelerator. A driver should always be in full control of their vehicle during poor road conditions.
  • Avoid unnecessary lane changes. This increases the chances of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that could cause loss of vehicle traction.
  • Do not power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads may only result in spinning your wheels. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.
  • Do not stop going up a hill. It is difficult to move up a hill on an icy road. If possible, get your vehicle moving on a flat roadway first before taking on a hill.
  • Minimize the need to brake on ice. If you are approaching a stop sign, traffic light or other area where ice often forms, brake early on clear pavement to reduce speed. Vehicle control is much more difficult when braking on ice-covered roadways.
  • Control the skid. Slamming on the brakes can make the skid even worse. In the event of a skid, take your foot off the brake or accelerator, continue to look and steer where you want to go. Then begin to accelerate slowly.
  • Do not brake and turn at the same time. Asking your vehicle to do two things at a time makes it more likely that your tires will lose traction. Brake first, then turn, then accelerate.
  • Know your brakes. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS) and need to slow down quickly, press hard on the pedal. It is normal for the pedal to vibrate a bit when the ABS is activated.

What to do in a winter emergency:

  • Stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.
  • Do not try to walk in a severe storm. It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle and get lost in blowing snow.
  • Do not overexert yourself trying to dig or push your vehicle out of the snow. Keep sand, kitty litter or traction mats in your vehicle to help the vehicle’s tires gain traction on ice and snow. Even a vehicle’s floor mats can help in a jam.
  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible as it only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
  • Make sure the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the vehicle when the engine is running.
  • Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.
  • If possible, run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.


Finally, always have an emergency car kit in your vehicle.  In the winter, an emergency car kit should include the following: 

  • Abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper with brush,
  • Jumper cables
  • Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves), and blankets
  • Warning devices (flares or triangles)
  • Drinking water and non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers
  • First-aid kit
  • Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
  • Mobile phone pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services and charger.

PHOTOS: Winter weather hacks


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