Winter Storm Driving Tips

There’s nothing quite like staying warm and cozy indoors on a warm winter day…and nothing quite like navigating the messy roads and chaotic weather conditions when you just can’t justify a sick day. There are plenty of things to love about winter, but sloshing through storms isn’t one of them. Before you get behind the wheel this season, take heed of these must-know winter storm driving tips:

Never leave the house unprepared. Try to keep at least half a tank of gas and stock your vehicle with cold-weather essentials like extra food, warm clothing, blankets, a flashlight, and any other items you think you might need in the event that you’re stranded. Better to be safe than sorry. 

Slow down. Even if you’re normally tempted to zoom in the fast lane, consider winter storms the time to take your speed down several notches. The season brings ice and snow to the roads, and even if you can’t see any obvious obstacles, slippery patches can make your car skid.

Increase your following distance. Try to stay at least 5-6 seconds behind the car in front of you. That extra little buffer will give you space to brake in case they make a sudden stop.

Keep the exhaust pipe clean. One part of your vehicle that may often be overlooked is the exhaust pipe. But exhaust pipe blockages caused by mud, snow, and ice can be serious — even fatal — as carbon monoxide can build up and leak into the passenger compartment. Be sure to keep an eye on it throughout the season. 

Keep going if you can. Stopping and starting your car during a winter storm can actually be risky since it requires extra inertia to get going again after a full stop. Slow down gradually, speed up gradually, and plan ahead to avoid full stops if you can.

Stay as visible as possible. Before you hit the road, consider tying a bright cloth scrap to your antenna and using your dome light while driving at night. Anything you can do to keep your vehicle easy to see and find in case of emergency may help you escape a scary situation.

If you can, just don’t drive. The very best way to avoid winter storm issues on the road? Avoid the road completely. While you may not be able to get out of work or other necessary obligations, consider canceling any unessential plans and rescheduling for better weather days.Another benefit to driving less? You may be able to save major money with pay-per-mile insurance.

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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.