Car driving in the snow

Driving In Snow: What First-Time Snow Drivers Need to Know

By the Mercury Team

What First-Time Snow Drivers Need to Know

Driving can be challenging even for 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 that in the snow and ice can be downright overwhelming.

Although you should only get on the road when absolutely necessary, you can safely drive in winter weather with proper preparation and extreme caution behind the wheel. Here’s how you can do it.

Tips for Driving in the Snow

If you’re driving in wintry conditions for the first time or just need a refresher, here’s how to safely drive in the snow and ice.

Before You Hit the Road

Winterize Your Car

You can do several things to winterize your car for maximum winter driving. Inspecting your tires is one of the best ways to ensure your car is ready for winter. Your tires need plenty of traction to help you stay on the road safely, so consider taking your car to a mechanic who will tell you whether your tires are okay or need replacement. If you need new tires, consider switching to winter tires specifically designed for the snow.

Remove Snow and Ice

To ensure you drive safely on winter roads, remove any snow and ice from your vehicle so you have an unobstructed view in all directions. Before clearing your windows, start your car and set the airflow to defrost with the maximum fan speed and temperature. Then, use a scraper or brush to remove snow and ice from the roof, trunk lid, hood, and all the windows. Once the inside and outside of your windows are fully defrosted, you can put your car into drive and hit the road.

Carry Emergency Supplies

If something goes wrong while driving on winter roads, you want to ensure you’re prepared to handle the situation. Here are some essential items you should have in your emergency preparedness kit

  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight and batteries
  • Ice scraper
  • Non-perishable food
  • Water
  • Extra coolant
  • Road flares
  • First aid kit
  • Gloves
  • Tire inflator
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Tire patch kit
  • Triangle reflector kit

Driving in Snow

Decrease Speed

You need to drive slower than normal to account for the poorer traction. As your tire treads sink into the snow, they grip the surface and offer stability, but you must wait a moment for the snow to be compressed enough to allow this to happen. Also, you must remember to gently press down on the brakes and accelerator to prevent your tires from sliding. Driving slower may take longer to reach your destination, but avoiding an accident is worth it.

Use AWD or 4WD

If your car is equipped with all-wheel drive (AWD) or four-wheel drive (4WD), using these systems can help you navigate through wintry road conditions. AWD is for good driving in moderate snowy conditions, while 4WD is better for driving in extreme snow and ice. However, these systems shouldn’t be a substitute for safe driving just because they provide some extra traction. Driving slowly and being aware of your surroundings is still the most important thing you can do while driving in the snow.

Leave Extra Distance Between You and Other Cars

Leaving five to six seconds of distance between you and other cars is one of the best ways to help you avoid an accident while driving in the snow. If something happens to the car in front of you, you’ll need plenty of time to stop safely. Driving slowly helps, but it may not be enough if you’re not driving at a safe distance. 

Check Your Rearview Mirror Whenever Changing Speeds

Whenever you adjust your speed, always check your rearview mirror. If you slow down, the car behind you may not notice, brake a little too late, and possibly rear-end your vehicle. By looking at your rearview mirror before slowing down, it’ll give you a chance to adjust your speed to help avoid an accident. 

Respect Snowplows

It’s best to keep a safe distance from plows on the road. If you drive next to one on the highway, the snow that flies off the side of the plow can hit your windshield, making it hard to see what’s ahead of you. 

Be on the Lookout for Black Ice

Black ice is when the pavement looks wet but is actually covered in ice. Be especially careful of black ice if you have to drive at night. During the day, snow and ice may thaw, but once the sun goes down, that water may refreeze and turn into ice.  

Don’t Use Cruise Control

Don’t use cruise control when driving in wintry conditions. If you put on cruise control, the system might not react as quickly if you feel a loss in traction. 


Driving in snow for the first time is not easy, let alone for someone with years of experience. Just remember to go slow, especially while turning. Give plenty of space to cars around you, 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. Also, ensure you properly handle your vehicle in rough conditions.

Accidents still happen, though. That’s why you should have reliable car insurance to help protect you and your vehicle following an accident. Mercury Insurance provides high-quality coverage at an affordable rate.

Contact us for a fast, free quote today!

Mercury Team

The Mercury Marketing Team is made up of professionals in the fields of Content Creation, Public Relations and Social Media. The team works together to deliver professionally written and researched content to provide information for consumers.

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