How to Drive On Icy and Snow-Covered Roads

When it comes to winter driving with accumulated ice and snow, sometimes it’s best to stay home!  If you have to drive – and most of us do – it’s a good idea to wait until snow plows and sanding crews have done their work.


However, because we all have responsibilities which require driving to work or school, it is a good idea to know what to do if you find yourself sliding on an icy road.

If your rear wheels are sliding:

  • Take your foot off the accelerator.
  • Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they’re sliding right, steer right.
  • If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side.  You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.
  • If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), don’t pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

If your front wheels sliding:

  • Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don’t try to steer immediately.
  • As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Put the transmission in “drive” or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If you get stuck in snow:

  • Don’t spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.
  • Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.
  • Use a light touch on the gas, and slowly ease your car out.

If that doesn’t work and you’re still stuck

  • Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car. 
  • Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel or salt in the path of the wheels, to help get traction.
  • Try rocking your vehicle. (Check your owner’s manual first — it can damage the transmission on some vehicles.) Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you’re in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.

Sources: The Weather Channel, National Safety Council, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Washington State Government Information & Services

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