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

121 thoughts on “Winter Driving Tips from a Wild Rider!

  1. 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.

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  2. 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.

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  3. 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!

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  4. 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.

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  5. 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.

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  6. 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!

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    • 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!!!

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  7. 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.”

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  8. 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!

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    • 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!

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  9. 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!

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  10. 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 ….

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  11. 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.

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  12. 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.🙂

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    • 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..

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  13. 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.

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    • 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!

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  14. 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!🙂

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  15. Pingback: Blog post ideas for NaBloPoMo or WHATEVER | Susie Lindau's Wild Ride

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