Essential Winter Driving Tips

Consumer Reports - Jack Frost nipping at our noses can also mean treacherous driving conditions. Your best bet in wintery weather is to stay off the road. But if you have to get behind the wheel, Consumer Reports has some essential driving tips which can help keep you and your loved ones safe.

Remember, in winter weather, any action you take while driving will take longer. Tip number one: slow down and leave about twice the distance you normally would between you and the car in front of you. This will give you more time to react if things go wrong. Be deliberate and slow; take more time to steer or put on the breaks. A good rule of thumb is to pretend there's a hot cup of coffee on the dash that you're trying not to spill.

Also remember that while four-wheel drive can help get your car going in the snow, it has no added benefit while stopping. That's where anti-lock brakes come in. They will stop the car sooner while also allowing you to steer. You'll know they are working when they start to pulse. Maintain firm pressure on the pedal.

If your car does begin to slide out of control, here's the best way to regain control:

"What most of us are likely to experience, because most of us drive front-wheel-drive cars, is a condition called understeer, where you're turning but the car keeps going straight," Consumer Reports auto expert Jen Stockburger said. "So if you come into the corner too fast, you come in, you turn, the car just keeps going straight. You may have to slightly unwind in order to get your traction back. Stay off the brakes. Stay off the throttle."

Another condition is oversteer --  when your car turns more than you intended. This time, turn the wheel in the same direction the rear of the car is sliding. Don't make jerky motions to the throttle or break until you regain control.

To play it extra safe, Consumer Reports recommends keeping a winter emergency kit in your car, which typically includes roadside assistance items in case you are stranded - like a signaling cone, a reflective vest, flashlights and extra batteries. It's also good to have battery booster cables, a portable shovel, and a first aid kit.


All Consumer Reports material Copyright 2017 Consumer Reports, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Consumer Reports is a not-for-profit organization which accepts no advertising. It has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site. For more information visit

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