Driving tips for wintry weather

(Columbia) Jan. 17, 2007 - WIStv.com has gathered some tips for driving in the icy weather.

Keep in mind that state law stipulates that motorists involved in a minor motor vehicle collision without injury should move their vehicle out of the flow of traffic (if they can do so safely) while waiting for law enforcement to arrive.

  • Do not travel if at all possible during inclement weather. The safest drivers in winter weather are those who stay out of their cars and off the roads. For people who must drive Tuesday, here are some tips to keep them as safe as possible.
  • Keep your windshield, rear and side windows clear so that your vision is not impaired. If your windshield and windows are frosted or iced over, you should scrape the entire surface clear before driving.
  • Test road conditions carefully. Applying the brakes gently is best for slowing down or stopping. Allow additional distance between your vehicle and others when there is snow or ice on the road. Remember that ice patches may occur on bridges and overpasses even when there is no ice on the roads.
  • Approach and proceed through intersections with caution. Icy road conditions may alter your vehicle’s ability to stop. Even if you are able to safely slow or stop your vehicle, cross traffic and motorists behind you may be unable to do so.
  • When possible, travel in the tracks where other vehicles have gone.
  • Try to plan your route to avoid hills. If you are forced to stop on a hill, it’s extremely difficult in icy or snow situations to resume motion.
  • Load extra weight into the trunk of your car to increase traction. Keep some play sand or cat litter in the car to use under your wheels for traction if you do get stuck in the snow.
  • Do not abandon your vehicle in the roadway, if at all possible. If you do not think that you can safely make it to your destination, pull off the roadway as far as possible. Remember, though, that snow can hide high curbs and open ditches, so use caution when pulling off the road.

For more information on travel conditions, road closures and other things visit the South Carolina Department of Transportation's web site.


  • Slow down, keep a consistent speed and avoid sudden braking. Snow and ice make stopping distances much longer, so leave more distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. Bridge decks and shady spots can be icy when other areas are not. Remember to avoid sudden stops and quick direction changes.
  • If your back tires skid, turn with the skid to correct it. If front tires skid, hold the wheel steady to come out of it. Increase your stopping distance by applying brakes sooner and more lightly.
  • Be aware of black ice, one of the biggest dangers of driving in icy conditions. Black ice is water that has frozen over on roadways and is nearly invisible.
  • Keep your eye on the edge of roadways.
  • Approach intersections with caution. When turning at intersections and curves, ease off the accelerator early. Generally avoid hills, but if necessary, drive slowly and keep a steady pace and a good interval between you and the vehicle ahead. If you stop on a hill, it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get going again.
  • Using low beams when driving in these conditions will help with visibility.
  • When possible, travel in the tracks where other vehicles have gone before. If you do get stuck in the snow and ice, avoid spinning your wheels. Use sand, cat litter or mats under your tires to create traction. Keep your front wheels as straight as possible and rock your vehicle back and forth from reverse to drive.
  • Don't talk on the phone while driving.
  • Make sure your brakes, windshield wipers,defroster, heater and exhaust system are in top condition.
  • Check your antifreeze and be ready for colder temperatures. You may want to add special solvent to your windshield washer reservoir to prevent icing.
  • Check your tires. Make sure they are the properly inflated and the tread is in good condition.
  • Put an extra car key in your pocket. A number of motorists have locked themselves out of their cars when putting on chains and at ski areas.
  • Allow enough time. Get an early start and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
  • Keep your gas tank full. It may be necessary to change routes or turn back during a bad storm or you may be caught in a traffic delay.
  • Keep windshield, windows and lights clear. You may want to stop at a safe turnout to use a snow or, ice or scraper. Use the car defroster and a clean cloth to keep the windows free of fog.
  • Be more observant. Visibility is often limited in winter by weather conditions. Slow down and watch for other vehicles and for snow equipment.
  • When stalled, stay with your vehicle and try to conserve fuel while maintaining warmth. Put bright markers on the antenna or windows and shine the dome light. If you do run your car, be certain the exhaust pipe is cleared and run the engine just enough to stay warm. Don't idle for a long time with the windows up or in an enclosed space.

Possibly the best tip of all, though, is to stay home if you don't have to be anywhere important. Wear your safety belt. Children should be properly restrained in age and size appropriate safety seats in the back seat. Children ages 12 and under are much safer in the back seat.

updated 9:16am by Bryce Mursch