Winter Driving Safety Tips

Updated February 20, 2024  |   Published January 22, 2024

Approximately one fifth of Massachusetts car accidents happen during the winter. This makes it crucial to practice defensive driving and be more vigilant while on the road during the winter months. Factor in snowy and icy conditions, plus lack of sunlight for much of the day, and your commute to work looks very different than the rest of the year. We’ve put together some tips to help you avoid an accident and stay safe on the roads this season.

 

Avoid driving in snow or ice when possible

The most important winter driving tip is to avoid driving during winter storms unless it’s absolutely necessary. Snow can significantly impact your ability to see the road ahead and your tire traction. Ice can impact your tire traction as well. It’s much easier to spin out if roads aren’t treated yet. If you can avoid being on the roads when conditions are poor, it’s best to do so. To find out current road conditions, call 511 from your cell phone or any of the following from a cell or landline:

  • Metro Boston: (617) 986-5511
  • Central Mass: (508) 499 -5511
  • Western Mass: (413) 754-5511

Consider taking public transportation

If public transportation is available in your area, we recommend that you use it if you need to go out. Even if it takes longer to get where you need to go, it is better to get there without the stress of driving in a snowstorm or on icy roads.

 

Winter driving safety tips

Even if a road is plowed and salted, we recommend that you still exercise extreme caution while operating your car. If you must drive during a snowstorm or in icy conditions, we recommend you at least avoid driving during the very worst parts of a storm. If possible, travel during daylight, avoid traveling alone, and stay on the main roads instead of taking shortcuts through side roads. Typically, state plows will focus on plowing main roads first, and side roads second.

Before you head out

  • Clear snow and ice from windows, lights, the hood, and the roof. Do the proper preparation before you hit the road. You’ll minimize the risk of a surprise falling from your roof onto your windshield while you’re driving, or a piece of ice from your car hitting someone else!
  • Let others know your destination, route, and expected travel times. This can help ease anxiety for others, knowing that you got to your destination safely, and can help someone find you if something does happen to you.
  • Allow for extra travel time. Because you’ll be traveling slower than normal, you should factor extra travel and traffic time into your departure and arrival at your destination. It will take longer than normal.

Watch out for winter trouble spots

  • Be wary of bridge decks. They freeze first, making them more dangerous than the approach road.
  • Exit ramps sometimes have less anti-icing material than the main line. Be aware of this when exiting the highway.

Practice winter driving safety

  • Brake early and correctly. It takes more time and distance to stop in adverse conditions, so leave plenty of room for stopping.
  • Don’t let your vehicle make you overconfident. Many 4×4 vehicles are heavier than passenger vehicles. This means it takes longer to stop than passenger vehicles. Don’t get overconfident in your 4×4. Be wary of its traction.
  • Don’t try to out drive the conditions. Speeding during a snowstorm to get to your destination quicker is never the right thing to do. Remember that the posted speed limits are for dry conditions, so on wet, snowy, or icy roads, it’s recommended to drive even slower than the speed limit.
  • Don’t use cruise control. Even roads that look clear can have sudden slippery spots. Using your brake on these spots will deactivate cruise control, increasing the potential for you to lose control of your vehicle.
  • Look further ahead in traffic than normal. After all, it will take you longer than normal to stop.
  • Trucks are heavier than cars. This makes it more difficult to brake. Avoid cutting quickly in front of them.
  • Wear your seatbelt. 
  • Always drive with your headlights on to see and be seen. This helps you find the lines in the road if it’s snowing and can help others see you to avoid a car accident.

Take extra care when driving near plows

  • Drive slowly.
  • Don’t crowd the plow. Leave room for maintenance vehicles and plows. Stay back at least 200 feet and don’t pass on the right.
  • Be prepared for sudden stops.
  • Remember that visibility in front of the plow is often worse. Turn on your lights and brush the snow off of them regularly.
  • When passing snow removal equipment, such as a maintenance vehicle or plow, remember to:
    • Reduce your vehicle’s speed to safely pass.
    • Allow for extra room while passing a salt spreader. Their blades extend several feet ahead of the truck, so don’t cut in too fast.
    • Pass only on the plow’s left.
    • Prepare for salt and snow to bounce off your car.

 

If you do get into a car accident this winter, don’t panic – our agents have your back. We’ve compiled a detailed list of things to do when you get into a car accident.

What to do After a Car Accident