Winter Driving Tips

Driving a motor vehicle with any significant amounts of snow or ice on the vehicle is against the law (R.I.G.L. § 31-23-16). Clear all snow and ice off the entire car including the roof, hood, trunk, and license plates. Also, all glass surfaces and lights should be clear and transparent. This includes your windows, side-view mirrors, headlights and tail lights.

If you must drive during a storm, follow these tips

  • Never leave a vehicle unattended while it is warming up. Also, never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • If you have a mobile phone, take it with you and make sure it is fully charged before you leave.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • Drive slowly. Accelerating, stopping and turning takes longer on snow-covered or icy roads. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • Do not follow the vehicle in front of you too closely. Remember that it takes extra time to stop on icy roads. The more space there is between you and the vehicle in front of you, the less likely you will rear-end them if they stop short.
  • Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
  • Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
  • Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
  • Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
  • Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, you might encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges, entrance and exit ramps.
  • Don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.
  • As always, never text while driving and be sure everyone in the vehicle is wearing a seat belt.

If your rear wheels skid...

Take your foot off the accelerator.

Steer in the direction you want the front wheels to go. If your rear wheels are sliding left, steer left. If they're sliding right, steer right.

If your rear wheels start sliding the other way as you recover, ease the steering wheel toward that side. You might have to steer left and right a few times to get your vehicle completely under control.

If you have standard brakes, pump them gently.

If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS), do not pump the brakes. Apply steady pressure to the brakes. You will feel the brakes pulse — this is normal.

If your front wheels skid...

Take your foot off the gas and shift to neutral, but don't try to steer immediately.

As the wheels skid sideways, they will slow the vehicle and traction will return. As it does, steer in the direction you want to go. Then put the transmission in "drive" or release the clutch, and accelerate gently.

If your vehicle becomes stuck or you are snow-bound...

Stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter, makes it easier for rescuers to locate you, and is easier for other motorists to see (versus you walking outside of your car, where you could be hit).

Don't try to walk in a severe storm. It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.

If you are sure the car's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending on the amount of gas in the tank.

Call 911 from your mobile phone for the Rhode Island State Police. Describe your location and immediately report any injuries.

Remember, if your vehicle starts to skid, always look and steer in the direction you want to go.