Winter can put a damper on driving conditions, especially when snow and ice are involved. Hazardous storms and inclement weather are a factor in more than half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. As a result, it’s important to be overly cautious and prepare accordingly.

Driving in winter conditions can be challenging. Black ice, heavy snowfall, roads that have not been cleared of snow and other bad driving conditions can make it more difficult for drivers to control their vehicle and avoid a crash.

To help keep motorists safe on the road, AAA offers the following tips for driving in winter weather:

  • Safety first! Always wear your seat belt and never text, talk on the phone, or drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Also, make sure all your tires are properly inflated before hitting the road.
  • Do not tailgate. Normal following distances of three to four seconds on dry pavement should be extended to 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. 
  • Never use cruise control on slippery roads. If your vehicle hydroplanes or skids, you will lose the ability to regain some traction simply by lifting off the accelerator. It will be harder to recover from the loss of traction if cruise control is active.
  • Slow down and adjust your speed to the road conditions. Slowing down will help improve your tire traction as well as give you more time to react to unexpected situations. Be sure to leave plenty of space between your car and the car ahead of you – at least 8-10 seconds.
  • Don’t slam on the brakes. If your car begins to skid, continue to steer in the direction you want the car to go. Slamming on the brakes will only make your vehicle harder to control.
  • Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses. Black ice typically forms first in shaded areas of the roadway and on bridges and overpasses that freeze first and melt last. Although the road leading up to a bridge may be fine, the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
  • React quickly. Watch the traffic ahead and slow down immediately at the sight of brake lights, skidding cars or emergency flashers. 
  • Overcome hills. When approaching a hill try to get a little extra power going before you reach the incline, and then let that motion carry you to the top. As you reach the peak of the hill, reduce your speed, and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.