5 Common Winter Driving Mistakes

Do you make the following winter driving mistakes?

  1. Following too closely. “Increase the spacing between you and the car in front of you, which will give your room to stop or avoid the vehicle in front of you if the driver loses control. Don’t get caught up in someone else’s mistake,” says Matt Edmonds, vice president of The Tire Rack.
  2. Having insufficient traction. “Tires may have too little tread depth or be summer tires that do not give enough traction in winter’s worst conditions which can make you lose control,” Edmonds says.
  3. Driving too fast for conditions. “Packed snow has about 25 to 30% of the traction of dry pavement so drivers should be going one-fourth the speed they would normally,” says Brandon Bogart, vice president of In Control Advanced Driver Training.
  4. Having poor visibility. “Snow creates extra hazards for visibility and drivers should make adjustments to compensate: clearing their whole car of snow and ice and using good windshield wipers and Rain-X to keep their visibility good. Fog lights can also make a big difference in dense snow,” Bogart adds.
  5. Driving fatigued. “Most drivers don’t realize that snowy conditions can use up to four times the energy and concentration of regular driving,” says Bogart. “As fatigue sets in, drivers quickly lose driving skills and become the equivalent of drunk drivers. Drivers should make sure they are well rested before attempting trips where there may be snowy or inclement driving.”

If you’re stranded in winter weather, Bogart offers this advice:

  1. Keep your seatbelt on and stay in the car if possible. Most injuries occur to unbelted drivers or drivers who are outside their vehicles.
  2. Keep the windows open, at least a little. Snow piled around stopped cars can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. If your car is not moving you need to keep fresh air coming in through the windows to avoid dangerous poisoning.
  3. Stay calm and stay in your vehicle. Your vehicle is warm and dry and the easiest place for help to find you.

If you need to brush-up on your winter driving skills (or if winter weather is a new challenge for you), Bogart recommends attending a state-licensed Driver Skills Development program to learn hands-on how to respond to these dangerous emergencies.

“You can not learn how to respond to these situations by talking about it,” Bogart emphasizes. “It’s like riding a bike. You can talk about it all you want, but the only way to learn is to take a bike and try it out. You can’t learn to control a skid by talking about it any more than you can learn to pedal and balance a bike at the same time by talking about it.”