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Winter Driving Safety Tips

Author: South Valley Chamber
Published: December 27, 2017

Winter is upon us! And it’s just getting started. Raise your hand if you forget how to drive in the snow every year. Let’s all collectively avoid crashes this winter and hone in on our driving skills. Check out what our friends over at WCF Insurance have to say about driving in the quintessential Utah weather.

Take a few minutes to cover a few basics

  • Get an earlier than usual start and plan for the trip to take longer than normal.
  • Clear your entire vehicle of snow. Snow left on the roof and hood can easily end up on the windshield or rear window, obstructing your view.
  • Clear ice off all windows and side mirrors. Clearing just a peephole will get you out of the driveway faster, but will also obstruct your line of vision.
  • Remove snow from your shoes before you get in the car to avoid fogging up the windows and creating slippery gas and brake pedals.
  • Always use your seatbelt and insist any passengers do so as well.

On the Road

  • Slow down. Posted speed limits are meant for ideal (i.e., dry) conditions; adjust your speed down during slick weather. This is even true for four-wheel drive vehicles.
  • Don’t talk on your cell phone while driving.
  • Leave extra space between you and the vehicle in front of you in case of sudden stops, black ice, etc. If the vehicle behind is following too closely, change lanes or try slowing down so they will pass you.
  • Try not to make sudden stops or direction changes, such as going across three lanes of traffic to make that last-minute exit.
  • Keep your headlights on.
  • Pay attention to other drivers and anticipate what they may do. Watch for cars on side streets that are trying to pull out into traffic.
  • Slow down while approaching intersections.
  • Keep clear of snowplows, big rigs and other large vehicles, which can suddenly blind you with snow spray. Never pass a snowplow on the right.
  • Do not use cruise control in cold or wet weather. Tapping on your brakes to disengage can cause you to slip and slide.
  • Be alert for ice, especially on bridges and in shaded areas.
  • During especially hazardous and treacherous conditions, don’t try to drive out of the storm; seek shelter until the worst passes.

Braking & Skidding

  • At the first sign of brake lights, start slowing down. Try to avoid slamming on the brakes.
  • If you have anti-lock brakes, do not pump them. Keep constant, firm pressure on the brake pedal until the vehicle comes to a complete stop.
  • If you start to skid, take your foot off the pedal and steer in the direction you want to the vehicle to go. Do not hit the brakes or accelerate.


  • If highways signs say chains are required you must either stop and put them on, or turn back.
  • Pull completely out of traffic to put on and take off chains. Stopping in a traffic lane not only blocks traffic, it greatly endangers your physical safety.

What to Do if Stranded

  • If your vehicle breaks down, or is stalled or stranded, don’t panic.
  • Turn on the emergency flashers or set up flares.
  • If you’re stuck, try straightening the wheels and accelerating slowly. Don’t let the tires spin endlessly; it only helps create a mess. (Consult your owner’s manual for the best way to get the vehicle unstuck.)
  • Turn the car on occasionally to keep warm. If it is snowing, check the tailpipe every so often to ensure it is not covered with snow. You may also want to crack a window slightly to avoid potential carbon monoxide build-up.
  • Move around once in a while to keep your circulation up.
  • If it is snowing or raining, stay with your vehicle unless help is within 100 yards.

Know the Conditions
Winter weather can change fast and unexpectedly. For the latest updates on road conditions visit a commuter link website where up to the minute conditions can be seen and decisions on the safest route can be made.

Other Tips

  • Keep an extra car key in your wallet or pocket. If you accidentally lock yourself out, you won’t be stranded in the cold.
  • Tell someone your planned route and estimated arrival time in case something happens, especially on longer trips.

Additional Resources
WCF Insurance Safety Department