Winter Driving Tips from a Wild Rider!

I love winter driving, especially in snowstorms! The snow makes beautiful patterns as it streaks across the windshield and the challenge of keeping the car on the road gets my adrenaline pumping similar to skiing down a mountain. I learned to drive during long snowy Wisconsin winters. This was back in the day when the snow fell in November and didn’t melt until spring. Monster ruts formed along with black ice which would hide under a shroud of fresh snow like a cursed demon, sending unsuspecting drivers fish-tailing or spinning in circles. Of course we all had rear-wheel drive cars back then.

I decided to share what I learned since most people on the road during our last Colorado snowstorm sucked at winter driving! It occurred to me that most of these tips also work for wet road conditions so if you are a friend closer to the equator you could benefit from some of them as well.

#1. If your tires are bald - when you stick a penny into the tread and it doesn’t touch Lincoln’s head - for God’s sake stay home! Taking the bus, taxi, or dialing a friend would be the safest option for you and everyone else sharing the road. No traction = no control. Even with the best snow tires, you may still slide on black ice so imagine the risk you are taking you crazy person!

#2. Slow down before stop lights or signs to prevent sliding into the intersection. No matter what kind of vehicle you are driving, slamming on your brakes to reduce your speed from 60 to zero in a snowstorm is never a good idea and no one wants to test their own driving skills in avoiding a collision with you. Black ice is often hiding underneath snowpack at intersections because idling vehicles melt the snow which then freezes.

#3. If you do start to slide on ice and there is a car in front of you, don’t slam on the brakes, close your eyes, and hope to God the anti-lock mechanism will save your butt. No matter how hard they pump you will keep moving forward. Stop braking and slowly use the steering wheel to guide your car around the vehicle. The car will respond like the sled it has temporarily transformed into. You don’t want to do anything fast. If you crank your steering wheel you’ll crash into that poor guy or gal in front of you and ruin both of your days.

#4. Don’t accelerate or brake over bridges or overpasses since they are notorious for ice buildup. My dad often tells a story about driving back from La Crosse, Wisconsin when he hit black ice on a bridge and spun around 3 times before stopping. Luckily this happened after midnight when no one was on the road. I can imagine my mom screaming, “Oh Eddie! Oh Eddie! Oh Eddie!”

#5. When the light turns green and you begin spinning your wheels, don’t accelerate like an Indy race car driver. I can’t believe how many morons think that if their tires go faster they will be able to get the car moving again. This is snow people, not asphalt! Some drivers must love the sound of squealing tires or watching the engine rev the speedometer up to 120 MPH! Shift your car into low gear and slowly step on the accelerator. Slowly! If you have already spun out, you have probably created ice under your tires. You want to do the most counter-intuitive thing imaginable; back up and then creep forward again.

#6. Make sure your wheels are straight when someone pushes you out. The volunteer who is straining against your bumper will be grateful.  Wheels turned sideways will make pushing your car a lot more difficult.

#7. Remember if there are several cars stuck in the snow with you, please stop and help others. I can’t believe the last guy I pushed out just waved and drove off leaving me on the side of the road to fend for myself. I eventually threw my car mats down under my front tires for traction. It worked, but I lost one deep under the snow. I had to wait until the spring thaw to find it again!

#8. If you start driving up a hill, do not stop or you will lose momentum. Even if you are only going 2 MPH it is important that you do not stop! If you only remember one thing, DO NOT STOP!!!

#9. Never text or talk on the phone! You really need to focus. Leave plenty of room between you and the car ahead so you have time to react to the changing conditions. It is easy to space out and tailgate. Talk about your weekend plans later.

#10. Do not drive in the passing lane alongside another car on the highway going 10 MPH. If you are visiting from a warm climate like Texas - Sorry Texas friends; I’m sure you’re exceptional drivers - remember that white knuckling in the left lane while driving your Plymouth Neon will cause those who are equipped for driving in the snow to flash their brights and honk their horns. We want you to have a pleasant stay while you are in Colorado, so for God’s sake pull into the right hand lane for your own safety! It is against the law in this State to impede the flow of traffic in the left lane.

#11. Turn on your emergency flashers if you have to drive slowly so no one rear-ends you. We drive up and down from the mountains frequently and I often flip them on if traffic suddenly comes to a halt right in front of me. They can be seen from quite a distance.

I love winter driving and hope that after reading these tips, you will enjoy it too!

In these following videos there is not a lot anyone could do…

Do you like driving in snow?

Have you ever felt out of control while driving?

Photo by K. Lindau

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Filed under Humor, Life

120 responses to “Winter Driving Tips from a Wild Rider!

  1. Good advice, Susie! The idiot things I see in Michigan make me wish I could print this out and give it to all of the crazy drivers I see. Fortunately we don’t have a lot of hills, but there are a LOT of people who think they’re better drivers than they actually are. They don’t want to slow down, especially at lights and stop signs.

    One thing I do that’s not on the your list – and not everyone agrees with me, is if I’m sliding, I’ll shift into neutral. Also, if it’s really slick, I’ll move so the passenger tires are on the shoulder of the road where there’s more traction.

    Like you, I enjoy the challenge of driving in a snowstorm, but there are some conditions that I’ll avoid, like the ice storm on December 21st. Until the salt/sand trucks get out, it’s often wiser to just stay home.

    Those videos are something else. Road crews should have been out in force sanding or salting those hills! :)

  2. It’s very depressing to think that people who live in a snowy state STILL can not drive in the snow….this is not good news for this east coaster who once believed that all the idiots were here and that there was a place far, far away where snow and idiots did not exist together.

    • I think most Coloradans who grow up here learn how to drive in snow. Its the people who move here from the south or west for business that mess roads up. Don’t get me started about people who don’t use their blinkers or stop at stop signs. The California roll doesn’t roll with me at all!

  3. Good tips, Wild. Living in NH, I pretty much knew all of those tips. I would like to add that people shouldn’t be driving in the passing lane under any conditions if they are going slower than those in the fast lane. Just thought I’d stick my own driving pet peeve in there. ;)

    PS — thanks so much for the card. I love it! It’s sitting on my desk and my kids keep picking it up and fiddling with the rotating picture because they want to know how it works, lol. :)

    • I agree with that pet peeve! What are people thinking when they sit in the left lane! I flash the my brights and they usually get the message or not…
      I’m so glad you got the card! Enjoy! Two were returned the day before I left for Wisconsin. They will become Valentine Cards!!!! At least they’re red and white..

  4. The Regular Guy NYC

    Here in NYC we don’t own a car and never have to drive in the snow. Mass Transit is so great! Still, these are all terrific tips for those that live in areas where a car is a must during snowy weather. I don’t miss those days when I lived in the burbs during snow.

  5. This post is a public service announcement. Here in DC, everybody who has ever seen snow forgets how to drive in it. And it should start with “TURN ON YOUR LIGHTS, MORON, I CAN’T SEE YOU!” Not that I have strong feelings about this ….

  6. sunshinebright

    Your tips are great – I used to drive in all kinds of weather when I lived in New York’s Long Island and Brooklyn. Never had an accident. Used to keep kitty litter in the trunk in case I got stuck in snow and/or icy conditions. So glad I don’t have to do that anymore!

  7. You are a rare person to like winter snow driving, but then the reason I don’t is fear of other drivers and plowing into the side of the road. Otherwise, it is quite beautiful. Good advice.

  8. Great tips!!!! My biggest pet peeve is those morons that like to tail gate you to the point where you can’t see the hood of their car!

  9. Having lived in the northern climes of Canada all my life, I am very experienced at winter driving! Another tip for people, turn on your lights when you are driving in a snow storm. People think they can be seen with their daytime running lights – but those lights do nothing for your back end. In blowing or drifting snow, other drivers cannot see you unless you have your lights on! Best advice if you start sliding sideways – take your foot off the gas!

    • Turning on lights is a great suggestion. If I am driving up or down the mountains and I see a traffic jam ahead, I will turn on my flashers. That could work in a storm too.

      Thanks for the tips!

  10. I hate driving any and all times of the year. One of the advantages of living in New York is that I don’t need a car, but back in the day when I was a TV commercial production assistant out here, I was often stuck driving vans. And that included in winter and in snow. I hated it, but I did it. Late on one very miserable night 30 years ago when I had to return the van to a dicey part of lower Manhattan, I sat alone in the driver’s sear outside the closed garage where I was told to leave it. It was bitterly cold. As I sat trying to gather the nerve to face the elements, I was startled by a tap on the window. It was a hooker. I looked pretty androgynous in my youth. I said, “Hey, sorry, I’m a woman.” She said, “Business is slow.”

  11. I wouldn’t drive in snow, too dangerous! Although I guess sometimes there is no choice. Sorry I have been out of the loop, Happy New Year and Happy Arctic Freeze!

    • It really doesn’t bother me, but I have snow tires. One year, I had bald tires when 30 inches fell. Danny bought the last tires at Firestone!!! I wouldn’t have been able to drive anywhere.
      Welcome back M!!!

  12. Susie Lindau…, this isn’t your fault, is it ? Please tell me that you haven’t been out doing your “snow dances” again !!! We have 3-4ft on the ground now and sub-zero temps for the past 3 days. Stay safe ‘n’ stay warm.

  13. an for gods sakes when you live in Canada… get some winters tires..:)

  14. Too bad Derek Porter pulled your first video.In the others scariest part is seeing how many pedestrians that are walking about in harms way seemingly oblivious. Right now everything is so frozen here our cars are barely hanging onto the driveway.
    You certainly are a good driver. I hope some people pay attention to your tips.

  15. Oh man, Susie! Can you drive me around during the winters? Great advice! I like the using of the car mat on the ground to get moving! I’ll remember that!

    These videos are crazy!! You forgot to warn pedestrians NOT to walk around while cars are slipping and sliding all around them! I am surprised no one got hit!

  16. Great tips Susie! Well done, from one Yank to another. So many people in Michigan seem to forget how to drive on the white stuff in the few months of decent weather up there.

  17. Susie, you must gone to driving school in Sweden – just what we have been told to do and a part of our driving education we have to drive on ice — also by law we have to spike tiers from the middle of November to middle of March. This with texting and talking on mobiles while driving should be forbidden by law.
    As I use to say … there is load of idiots on the road … please, don’t be one of them. Great-GREAT post.

    • I would love to have the opportunity to drive in Sweden someday. It does sound like similar training although we had to learn how to drive on ice the hard way. Trial and error!!!

  18. I have never driven in snow, because it never snows around where I live… It does sound like fun…

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  21. Also, for those driving stick “clutch in”. Disengage the engine so you can use that sled effect to your advantage. What little advantage you have. I hate that both our vehicles are automatics now, because I KNOW I’m going to slam on my breaks the first time I hit ice because I’ll be going for the clutch that doesn’t exist.

  22. Get good snow tyres and have a lot of patience, would be my 2 winter driving tips. You need patience with the conditions, patience with other drivers, patience with pedestrians and patience with yourself. Oh and give way to vehicles coming uphill so they can keep moving. We have a lot of snow here right now.

    • WHERE ARE YOU??? Most of the US is dry…
      Great tips!
      Thanks for coming by to read.

      • We’re in the French Alps, most of the European ski areas now have snow, and we have “shed loads”. 1 thing I forgot to mention and like a few of the other commenter’s I would recommend a practice at sliding the car around (empty car parks are fantastic) that way you can understand how your temporary sledge will react to your actions when it starts sliding on the roads.

  23. I live in iowa and the snow here is bad. Thanks for the tips. Now where is that snow, am ready for you?

  24. Great advice, especailly for a Californian transplanted in New Jersey! I’m hoping someday to trade my minivan in for a car that handles the snow better (and a little more coolness factor) :)

    • There you go! I think this will help especially the slamming on the accelerator to go or to stop when it is sheer ice! Good luck with your driving. I think the country has been dry overall so far this year…
      Thanks for reading!

  25. Oh, I am absolutely going to share this post when the “big storm” hits Austin. I grew up in the Midwest (and my mom is from CO…) and I feel comfortable driving in winter weather; however, my fellow Austinites FREAK out days before a “storm”- buying milk, batteries, etc., sanding driveways, putting tarps on their cars. Most of them will not leave the house (and it’s probably best that way) but there are always those that do (see rule #2, 10). :)

    • Theresolutionrevolution I am so glad you stopped by to read! Thank you so much – share away!
      We have so many visitors and transplants that don’t know how to drive in snow, I just had to put this out there!
      It sounds like they go a little nuts in Austin when the snow flies!! Lol!
      I hope you will stop by again soon!

  26. Loved the videos. You are right about rear wheel drives….still prefer those. Solid advice. Well written.

  27. Lovely videos. Having grown up in the Seattle area, and having had more than a few exciting winter drives, I can tell you that part of why I live in Phoenix (today’s weather: sunny and 75), is because I wanted to be where winter was something that happened to other people. :)

  28. Thank you Our Life! We did the same thing when fish-tailing and donuts were part of the learning experience! Hahaha!
    Thanks for following my blog!

  29. I love snowy winter driving too. As a kid we would find an empty parking lot and ‘learn how to drive in it.’ Lots of fun!

    Have fun Susie! Love the driving stories. I moved to SC so we don’t see too much snowy driving anymore. : (

  30. Great job. I’m a New Hampshire native living in Georgia, and while there’s not a lot of snow here, when there is, I’m petrified to go out. NOT because of my own abilities to drive in the snow and ice, but because everyone else on the road needs a list like this desperately!

  31. I was laughing and nodding my head all through the list. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people make these mistakes in a Canadian winter, even people who’ve faced it their whole lives. The only thing I’d add to the list is specific for anyone driving a pick-up truck–put extra weight in your truck bed so that you reduce your chance of fishtailing.

    • Definitely! Rear-wheel drive is the worst! I remember being so bummed when I realized you couldn’t do donuts with front-wheel drive anymore!! Now my kids call it “drifting” when they go to a snowy parking lot and throw the car into a slide! They just look at me in wonder when I talk about the good old days! Hahaha!

  32. During my 30+ years driving a cab in Toronto, I had an attitude like yours. I could drive in anything and LOVED it. Now that I’ve proven that I can, I am more than willing to stay at home in stormy weather and maybe take a walk in the snow.

    Great tips. A note about tip # 3: With anti-lock brakes full on you will slow down faster than manual braking AND you will be able to steer while braking. I found this out by testing it out since the first time I braked hard enough for the anti-lock to start chattering, it scared the hell our of me.


    • The only problem with anti lock brakes full on when you are in a total slide not touching the tires helps with steering. I hope I never have to test this out again. The idea is that when the brake is depressed it makes the car skid on sheer ice since there is no traction. It is a rare situation, but it is the only time that you have to take your foot off the brake “completely!” The same with over passes, but there you can’t accelerate either…
      Thanks for stopping by!

  33. Feel free to pass my link along!! Sounds like a blast there when it snows. Its my kind of weather!
    Thanks for reading!

  34. Your tips would be handy here in NZ. We don’t get snow like that often in NZ – it’s mostly in the south, and when we do, nobody has any skills or ideas about how to handle it. So there are lots of small prangers, cars sliding down roads, stuck buses and so on, while the kids skate around having fun with snowballs…


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  36. lynnkelleyauthor

    Thanks so much for these important and helpful tips, Susie. I live in California and not only do I not like driving in snow, I don’t like driving in the rain either. People drive like idiots in the rain here. They need to read your tips!

  37. Sage advice! People need to slow down and use their heads when driving in the winter, if they don’t they not only endanger theirself, but others on the road!

  38. Great tips. Are all your videos from Seattle? They could be. That’s about how it goes around here if you get more than three snowflakes stacked together…

    • Thanks Amy! Two videos are from Seattle and one I think is from Philadelphia. There really isn’t anything anyone can do on sheer ice except get out of the car and pray! The only thing that would help are studded snow tires or chains.

  39. This scares me! I’m glad we don’t get much snow here!

  40. We have a really steep driveway so we have salt around for that. Before my husband and I got Blizzak tires, we used to have a problem getting driving in. Now even with his little sports car he blasts through the snow!!

    Thank you for stopping by!!

  41. I live on hill so I keep plenty of salt handy. When conditions get icy I will go out and salt the streets by hand. I’m amazed at how people will just sit in their homes and wait for someone else to do something about it. If you have a camera, you probably have a shovel so go dig dirt out of your yard and put it on the street. Once people see what you are doing they will offer to help – happens every time.

  42. Hahaha! A hair dryer! That is funny! I left WI before we could have done that, but I remember getting really close to the keyhole and breathing in it to warm it up possibly filling it with more moisture!
    Thank you August!

  43. Ooh, you make me laugh, Susie! Brings me back to many driving adventures in MN. My mom once called while her car was spinning on ice… Only funny because she came out unharmed, of course. Plugging the car in and using a hair drying to thaw out the locks also come to mind… LOL Winter driving definitely requires unique training. ;)

  44. That’s scary. Thankfully it doesn’t snow in Central California. I had to drive in it once and that was enough. I’ll leave that to (you) the experts.


  45. Thanks Julie! I don’t know how many will actually see it, but I know what you mean. So many are transplants from warmer climates.
    I watched a guy drive right into a snow bank today in Breck when he was going too fast and slammed on his breaks. I really wanted to get out and give him the link to my blog! Hahaha!

  46. THANK YOU for writing this! I’m from Northern Michigan and now live in Colorado, and it’s amazing how even people here have zero know-how (or even common sense) when driving in the snow.

  47. paywindow7

    All of your driving tips are right on the money. I live down near Ft.Worth which is the home planet for black ice in the winter and ss you know driving on snow is not a problem if you pay attention to what you are doing and follow Tips 1-11 above. But driving on black ice defies all the rules and as soon as you pull the car out of the drive-way you are no longer driving you are then careening. I’ve read some of your other posts and I really like the way you write and I’m looking forward to following your blog. Here’s to a great 2012 for you and yours.
    Bob Cloud

    • Wow Bob! Thank you so much!! That made my day!

      I wrote the disclaimer over the videos when my son pointed out that no one could do anything in those conditions including black ice. I totally agree…

      All the best to you and your family in 2012 as well Bob!

      • paywindow7

        I’m reminded of a trip a couple of years ago where I had to drive from Durango over to Ouray on Highway 550. As you know that’s called the Million Dollar Drive and for good reason, it’s beautiful, in the summer, but I had to drive it during a blizzrd. It would take too much space to place it here and I could not find your email so I’ll try to pull it togetrher on my blog.
        My email is:
        Bob Cloud

  48. Thanks Rich! I forgot you were from Texas!!
    I think you either love it or hate it. Even when I am stuck behind an inexperienced driver, I enjoy the beauty of the snow~

  49. Another Texan here but no offense taken. Actually, I love driving in those conditions as well. Had to in a previous job.
    As always, Great Advise !

  50. Do you think we will ever get more than 2″ here in Western New York? This global weirding is really pissing off us skiers! ;-)

    Great post!

  51. I’m a SoCal girl transplanted to the Pacific Northwest. I lived through those snowstorms you’ve posted videos of…not fun at all! Thank you for the driving tips, some I’d never heard of before. Here in the Seattle area it took me 6 hours to get home from work one night, a distance of some 12 miles, last year when a storm hit at the evening rush hour. All my routes home were blocked, something I didn’t find out till after I was on the road. With a 1/4 tank of gas I did a lot of sitting with my car in neutral and hoping I wouldn’t have to get out and walk. Your post is great advice for us non-snow driving types! ;-)

    • Thank you Serena! There is definitely a trick to it!
      That sounds like a harrowing experience. Last year we went to look at an apartment with our daughter and the snow started falling, and falling and falling. Soon traffic got so bad it took over an hour to go 1 mile! Loved it though!

  52. Hahaha!
    Fantastic! I am so glad that you are going to share this. If everyone knew these tips, it would make winter driving easier for all of us who share the road!!

  53. I hate driving in the snow. Hate it! I am pretty careful and cautious and all that. The only thing is that my car SUCKS in the snow. I have two giant hills I go up (and down from) to work each day. My verbage is something like, “you f****** idiot! Don’t stop! Don’t f****** stop! Keep going! Oh my God! You dumb***!” When I manage by them I get my window down and yell, “Stay home, ***hole! You’re a menace!”
    Yeah… me and then snow driving… don’t get along so much.

    Love the list! I am printing it out and making copies to give to EVERYONE this year. :D

  54. I just got up and this is so weird.. I dreamed I was driving in snow and then I see this.
    As a proud Canadian I know most of these but your snow is different that Canada. It comes in layers.. HUGE layers..:)
    Be careful.

  55. Thanks Just a Smidgen! My dad taught me some of them and others came from experience. I won’t say how many years – Hahaha!

  56. I did a “white knuckle” drive to Vernon last night… it’s so hard to see when the headlights reflect the “driving” snow.. Dark and slushy… the car pulling off to the side! Yuck! All of your tips are absolutely right on the money!!

  57. I don’t like driving in the snow but I’m good at it. when you live where i do, snow is normal for at least 3 months of the year. So get good at it or stay home. or take a bus. or a cab. or walk.

    I agree with David – slush can be as dangerous as black ice.

    thanks for an entertaining read Susie.

  58. Too many ski trips and other winter driving not to know how, but I agree that most people don’t.

    BTW, slush can be as dangerous as black ice. It can throw your wheels off line and send you into a ditch.

    • Thanks David! That is so true!
      I figured with the amazing photo on your blog that you were accustomed to driving in snow. I just drove Danny to ski a couple runs and the guy in front of me started to slide. He slammed on his brakes and slid over into the ditch on the other side of the road. I almost stopped to tell him to check out my blog’s driving tips, but I don’t think he would have appreciated it! Hahaha!

  59. I don’t know why people do that! Even when the sun is shining they can clog traffic for miles behind them!
    Thanks for reading!

  60. I echo #10 especially. LOUDLY! :-)

  61. Hahaha! Thanks Tameri! I am so glad that these tips helped you.

  62. You. Are. Insane.

    Okay, maybe it’s just me since I grew up in Southern California and have driven in snow approximately 38 times in my life. Once in a snowstorm. I did NOT like it. No cute designs on my windows, no sweet little snowflakes making friends with my car, no sirree. That is not fun in my world.

    Your driving tips are great, though. We warmer temp people tend to freak if it rains, so knowing what to do when there is black ice (a term I became especially well acquainted with one year), is a huge bonus.

  63. Oh wow! I have a great tip for winter driving: Don’t! If it snows, I stay at home. If I really need something, then it better be within walking distance. I love myself and my car way too much to drive in the snow. Luckily for me it doesn’t snow much where I live.

  64. You are so awesome Pat! I was worried about that comment about Texans!
    Every time we drive to or from the mountains someone sits in the left hand lane. I am not sure why….
    Happy driving and thanks for reading!

  65. Like The Hook, I’m amazed you enjoy winter driving, Susie. By the way, I’m a driver from Texas, and those of us who live in the southern part of the state do NOT know how to drive in snow, so I’d be white-knuckling it–but in the right lane as I know my limitations.

  66. You LIKE winter driving? You’re one brave gal, Susie!

    • Isn’t that weird? I especially like driving over the mountain passes in storms! It is exciting! I have never had an accident…I am pretty careful and having great tires for snow is key!

  67. #5, #8 and #9 really cracked me up. How can people be such dimwits… LOL! :-D

  68. Great reminders and tips…thanks for sharing:)

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