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Consumer Focus: Winter Driving
Image of a man drivig a car.

Winter Driving

Do you know the difference between snow tires and regular tires? How should you change your driving behavior in the event of ice or snow? Put yourself to the test by reading these tips on how to handle your car and yourself in winter weather.

For those of you in Sunbelt states where ice and snow are not an issue, here are some things you can do to make yourself and others safer on the road. It’s never too late to learn how to be a better driver.


Image of a tire.

Do I Need Snow Tires?

Here are the key differences between all season and snow tires.

  • All season tires are designed to handle wet and dry surfaces, and some snow.
  • Snow tires are specially constructed to grip snowy surfaces. Even the rubber is specially formulated to stay pliable in the cold and give you better traction on icy roads.
  • The law in your state may require you to use snow tires and/or chains during certain months of the year. Check with your motor vehicle department.
  • Snow tires are more prone to rapid treadwear. They also need to be stored in a cool, dry place. Stacking them on top of each other is recommended.
  • Ask the store where you purchased your snow tires for free storage bags. These are thin plastic bags to wrap the tires in. They protect the tires from natural ozone in the air, which can cause the rubber to dry out and crack.

Here are some other factors that might help you decide whether you need snow tires:

  • Think about what type of roads you usually drive on, especially if you live in a rural area.
  • Do your streets get plowed when it snows?
  • How urgent is it that you get out and drive if it snows?
  • If you are still unsure, consult your state’s motor vehicle department for advice. Ask experienced drivers for their opinion if you are new to the area.


Image of a man wipping off the snow on the windshield.

Tips for Driving in Snowy or Icy Conditions

  • Keep your gas tank and windshield washer fluid reservoir full.
  • Slow down.
  • Allow additional stopping distance on any road that is not dry.
  • “Counter steer” to regain control in a skid. Steer the car in the same direction that the back end of the car is going.
  • Check the website of the National Weather Service if you are planning on driving a long distance or in another part of the country. It’s always good to know what weather to expect.

If You Decide To Pull Over In A Snow Storm Image of a man cleaning the windshield.

If you can’t or don’t want to continue your trip (due to car trouble, poor visibility), pulling over to the side of the road may be the best option. On busy, high speed roadways, your best bet may be to exit and find a safe place to park. Here are some things you should have on hand just in case.

If you are in need of rescue, here’s what to do to make you and your car easy to spot.

  • Turn on your hazard lights.
  • Hang a brightly colored distress flag (preferably red) from your radio antenna or tuck one into a closed window.
  • Turning on the inside dome light is another way to help rescuers see you, but take care not to run the car battery down.
  • Raise the hood to indicate trouble once it has stopped snowing.
  • Don’t set out on foot unless you see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Remain in your vehicle; rescuers are most likely to find you there.
  • Do not leave your car and proceed on foot until it has at least stopped snowing. Follow the road, so rescuers will see you.
  • As always, don’t accept a ride from someone you don ’t know.

While you wait for rescue or the end of snowfall:

  • Conserve fuel, but run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. Be sure to crack a window and keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If more than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping so that someone is always alert.



Other Resources

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* Names of resources and organizations included in this online article are provided as examples only, and their inclusion does not mean that they are endorsed by the Savvy Consumer Information Center or any Government agency. Also, if a particular resource or organization is not mentioned, this does not mean or imply that it is unsatisfactory.


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