Driving in winter weather : how to drive safely through ice and snow

If you drive on winter roads, you better adapt your driving to ice and snow and don’t just rely on the technology. A few tips help.

Rain and cold and soon snow: winter is just around the corner. And in some places, the roads can already be slippery. Then it’s a case of taking your foot off the gas, keeping even more distance and approaching traffic lights and intersections at a slower speed, advises the Gesellschaft fur Technische uberwachung (GTu). The days get shorter in winter, the braking distances longer.

Most cars today have an anti-lock braking system (ABS). If you have to brake heavily with it, step "heartily" on the pedal, says the GTu. The car can still be steered if necessary, for example to avoid obstacles. But even if you have other electronic aids on board, such as a stability program, you should not take any risks and drive carefully.

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The laws of driving physics always remain in force, says GTu. Very old cars still without ABS are better braked more cautiously. Because otherwise the wheels lock quickly on ice and snow – and no longer transmit steering movements.

How fast can you drive in snow?

In snow, slush and ice, the world looks very different for drivers very quickly. The braking distance is longer, the grip is reduced and special attention is required when steering. In general, it is advisable to reduce speed by half in winter weather, i.e. ice and snow. This leads to the fact that the braking distance remains unchanged. In the case of ice, it is even recommended to reduce speed by up to 70 percent.

How to drive when it snows?

Drivers should generally avoid hectic steering on slippery terrain to avoid skidding. And winter drivers also step on the gas by stroking the pedal rather than stepping on it. A higher gear than usual helps prevent sudden wheelspin and can calm body movements.

More on driving in winter:

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  • Ice scraper or warm water:Tips and tricks against ice on the windshield
  • Snowfall and congestion:What drivers should have with them: Without problems by the cold – Thus the camper overwinters

Front-wheel drive can cause the front wheels to spin on snow, for example, if you accelerate too much in a curve. The car then pushes over the front wheels toward the edge of the curve, it understeers. In such a situation, the speed should be reduced. Then the wheels can grip again and the car follows the turned steering again.

Skillfully driving the car in the snow

If the rear axle drives the car, the rear end can break away if too much gas is applied. Here, quick countersteering with feeling is required to catch the car again. The best way to practice something like this is during a driver training course. All-wheel drive cars have an advantage according to GTu. These show their strengths both when starting and in the curve. Because they can distribute the forces of the drive more evenly to the wheels. When braking, however, there are then no more advantages.

Despite caution as well as good all-season or winter tires: When black ice is reflected on the road, even with intact tires, grip approaches zero. Then it makes more sense to wait for the gritting service to arrive.

What to do if you slip in the snow?

You shouldn’t react frantically or make jerky movements at first. Anyone who jerks the steering wheel could only make his situation worse. The steering wheel should be held as steady as possible with both hands and, if at all, only steered gently.
In addition, emergency braking is counterproductive and should be avoided. Light braking, on the other hand, is the order of the day when sliding in the snow. Most vehicles also have an anti-lock braking system, which helps prevent you from losing control of the vehicle.

What to do if you get stuck in the snow with your car?

Keep calm! First of all it is advisable to remove all visible snow obstructions. In addition, you should get help and ask the helpers to rock the car back and forth so that the tires are jerked out of the stuck spot. It is important to start slowly in a low gear.

If all of this is unsuccessful, car floor mats, for example, can help restore grip to the drive wheels. They serve as a starting aid instead of the slippery ground. Cat litter, which can be stored in the trunk for such emergencies, could also help to move the car again.

More on the topic

Snowfall and traffic jams What drivers should have with them

Cars and trucks are stuck in a traffic jam on the A3 autobahn in the direction of Oberhausen due to snowfall

In addition, transaction control should be eliminated beforehand. After the car is freed, it can be turned on again.

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