Safety First: Don't Make These 11 Mistakes While Driving in the Winter

Winter Driving Mistakes AI-Generated

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Winter Driving Mistakes AI-Generated
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Winter Driving No-Nos

Driving in winter conditions can be a harrowing and potentially perilous experience — especially when roads are coated with ice and snow. The reduced visibility, slippery surfaces, and unpredictable road conditions can increase the risk of accidents. Without proper precautions, drivers may find themselves in dangerous situations that could be easily avoided. 

The key to safe winter driving lies in understanding weather conditions and adapting one's driving behavior accordingly. Here are 11 mistakes to avoid while driving on icy roads, along with solutions for each.


1. Speeding

In icy conditions, speeding can be extremely dangerous. The higher the speed, the less control you'll have over your vehicle and the longer it will take to stop. Slipping and sliding are also more likely at high speeds, making collisions more probable. 

Instead, follow traffic directions closely and drive at or below the speed limit during active snowfall. If visibility is especially poor, reduce your speed even further.

Danger warning sign when close distance on the road. Japanese society problem.
Tony Studio/istockphoto

2. Tailgating

Following the car ahead too closely while driving in winter conditions can lead to rear-end collisions — especially since braking distances can increase up to ten times on icy surfaces compared to a dry road. 

To prevent fender benders, increase your following distance to at least five to six seconds. This will allow you enough time to react and slow down in the event of an abrupt stop. 

Car window close-up. Car under snow.

3. Not Clearing Snow and Ice From Your Vehicle

Snow and ice that piles up on your car can obstruct your vision and fly off your roof or trunk, posing a hazard to other drivers. To avoid this problem, remember to remove all snow and ice from windows, mirrors, lights, the trunk, and the roof before driving. This will ensure clear visibility and safety for everyone on the road. 

control cruise button

4. Using Cruise Control

While we love the convenience of cruise control, using it on slick roads can be a risk. This is because the feature might prevent timely manual intervention required in rapidly changing road conditions. Being able to react quickly and efficiently during an accident can mean the difference between life or death. 

Related7 Oil Change Ripoffs, Scams, and Problems To Avoid

Winter tire. Car in winter. Tires on snowy road detail
Milan Krasula/istockphoto

5. Forsaking Winter Tires

While this will depend on your vehicle and factors like whether it has four-wheel drive and traction control, regular tires may not provide enough traction on snow and ice. This can increase the risk of skidding — especially while driving at higher speeds. Instead, consider investing in winter tires, which are designed to provide better grip and stability on icy roads. 

Related: My Frustrating but Frugal Experience at Costco’s Tire Center

Emergency braking wheel with smoke on the highway.

6. Braking Suddenly

You may have heard this one before: Always avoid abrupt braking on ice because it can cause your vehicle's tires to lock up and skid uncontrollably. To avoid this terrifying event, practice gentle and gradual braking. During snowy or icy conditions, anticipate stops and begin slowing down well in advance to avoid sudden braking.

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Shocked frightened man screaming and braking just before an accident. Senior man driving car is about to crash.
Jelena Stanojkovic/istockphoto

7. Oversteering in a Skid

During a skid, your instinctive reaction might be to oversteer to correct course. But in reality, this can make the skidding worse and lead to a loss of control. 

If you notice that your car is swerving, remain calm and gently steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. Avoid overcorrecting, as this can cause the car to "spin more violently," a Mazda guide advises.

Related: Car Brands You’ve Never Heard Of

Winter Storm Warning Sign With Snowfall and Stormy Background

8. Ignoring Weather Warnings

Venturing out during severe winter weather increases your risk of getting into an accident or being stranded. As such, it's important to pay attention to weather forecasts and stay up to date on road conditions. If your plans are flexible, consider postponing trips or minimize driving when severe weather warnings are issued.

Emergency preparedness natural disaster supplies. Water, flashlight, lantern, batteries.

9. Not Preparing for Emergencies

Being caught in a winter storm without the right supplies can be life-threatening — especially if you're stranded somewhere without cell reception, or if it will take a while for rescuers/AAA to find you. 

To avoid this predicament, always keep an emergency kit in your car stashed with essentials like blankets, water, non-perishable food, flashlights, batteries, and a first-aid kit.

Professional mechanic working on the engine of the car in the garage.
Kunakorn Rassadornyindee/istockphoto

10. Neglecting Vehicle Maintenance

Winter conditions can exacerbate existing vehicle problems, which can lead to breakdowns or accidents. To prevent car malfunctions, remember to regularly service your vehicle — especially before the winter months. Check the battery, brakes, lights, and heating system to ensure they are all in good working order.

A woman scratches the front window of her car on a cold winter morning

11. Pouring Boiling Water on an Ice-Covered Windshield

A common but dangerous misconception is that pouring hot or boiling water on a frozen windshield is an effective way to quickly melt the ice. In reality, the extreme temperature difference can cause the glass to crack or even shatter — leading to costly repairs and potential safety hazards. Instead, use an ice scraper to gently remove ice from the windshield. (You can snag one on Amazon for less than $10.)

While we're at it, another common myth is that you should let your car sit for a few minutes before driving in the winter. Is this true? Actually, no. Most cars built in the last 20 to 30 years have "fuel-rich" engines that warm up more quickly and efficiently while driving rather than idling. So the next time your mom yells at your for not letting the car "warm up," tell her that myth has been debunked!