Cars driving in the snow

What First-Time Snow Drivers Need to Know

Driving can be quite a challenge for even the most seasoned drivers when snow and ice are involved. It’s hard enough dealing with congested traffic and inexperienced drivers. But trying to sort through all of that out in the snow and ice can be downright overwhelming.

I’m from Los Angeles, where something is severely wrong if we were to get a large snowstorm. Freeway traffic, no problem. Congested interchanges, no problem. Snow and ice, big problem for this Southern California kid!

When I went away to school in the Midwest, the weather was beautiful -- in August and September. Then October rolled in and so did the ice and snow, which turned the road into a very different and uninviting place. I had never driven in the snow and I was more than a little nervous. That stuff is slippery!

I had two choices: Take the bus and walk around town for the next six months, or learn to drive in slippery conditions. I choose the latter, but not before getting some advice from my friends and practicing in an empty parking lot…a lot.

Having the right car can make a huge difference in the snow. All-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive makes handling a car in the snow much easier. Add some all-weather tires and you’re well on your way to being prepared to take on whatever Mother Nature throws at you. I went the AWD route and purchased a Subaru Outback. I thought that was a pretty good choice, since it seems like every other car in Colorado is a Subaru.

From personal experience, AWD very well may have saved me from getting into an accident. The AWD system recognizes which tires need help and addresses the problem by having other tires compensate for struggling ones. This helps correct the car to the position it should be in. As an avid snowboarder, this came in handy on the slippery roads I travel to all of my favorite ski resorts. I feel confident and safe in my car and do not need to give up the search for fresh powder because of a little ice on the road.

Although I rave about my Subaru and how it handles in adverse conditions, winter roads can still be hazardous and tricky and not everyone can go out and get a car when they move. So, the best advice I have to offer is to drive slowly. Corners and turns need to be taken with caution and give yourself and oncoming traffic plenty of space when braking or turning. If you’re heading to work or school, set the alarm clock to wake up 15-20 minutes earlier. Sure it might be depressing when the alarm on your phone starts buzzing earlier in the morning, but trying to rush somewhere with snow on the ground will put you at a much greater risk of getting into an accident, which will also make you late for work or school.

Driving in the snow and ice is not easy for anybody, let alone for someone with no experience. Just remember to go slow, especially while turning. Give plenty of space to cars around you and gently push your brakes and start early. Allow yourself enough time to get from point A to point B safely, even if it means leaving a little bit earlier. Make sure your vehicle is equipped to handle properly in rough conditions. Oh, and one last tip: Prop open your windshield wipers when you park your car. Your defroster melts all of the snow and ice on your windows, but that water pools on your wiper blades. This freezes and presto, your wipers are now frozen to your windshield! And, if you try to pry them off, you may tear and chip the frozen rubber.

Stay safe and enjoy winter driving!