Driving in Winter Weather Can Be Deadly; Tips on How to Drive Safely

November 21, 2016

Expect busy mountain passes and area highways with holiday and Apple Cup travelers

Winter has arrived in our mountain passes just in time for Thanksgiving holiday travelers and Apple Cup road trippers. AAA expects more than 1 million travelers to originate from Washington alone this holiday weekend, and that doesn’t include those traveling to Apple Cup. Are you and your car ready for the challenge?

Winter storms and bad weather are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than two thousand road deaths every winter, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.  In 2014, there were over 5,200 collisions and 24 fatality collisions here in Washington because of icy, snowy or slushy road conditions.  

Winter is approaching, are you ready!  Motorists need to prepare and adjust how they drive during the upcoming winter months.  Safe winter driving requires drivers to do more than just make sure your vehicle is ready to handle the cold, snowy and icy conditions; it also means being prepared to drive in the winter conditions. 

To stay safe when driving during winter conditions, AAA recommends what NOT TO DO when driving:

1. Don’t drive during winter conditions at the same speed as you would when traveling in clear, dry conditions.

  • Slush, snow and ice can dramatically reduce your tires’ traction.
  • Slow down to maintain traction that’s lost due to the weather conditions. 

2. Do not brake and turn at the same time.

  • Asking your vehicle to do two things at a time makes it more likely that your tires will lose traction.
  • Brake first, then turn, then accelerate.

3. Don’t follow behind other vehicles during winter conditions as closely as you would when driving in clear, dry conditions.

  • Slick roads means your vehicle cannot slow down or stop as quickly.
  • Increase following distances to a minimum of 5-6 seconds.
  • Always keep open space to at least one side of your vehicle, in case you need make an emergency maneuver.

4. Don’t be rough with your steering, acceleration and braking.

  • If you’re not gentle with steering, acceleration and braking, your vehicle’s balance can be negatively affected, increasing the chance of experiencing a skid.
  • Always steer, accelerate and brake smoothly.
  • Four-wheel and all-wheel drive vehicles do not stop or steer better on ice.

5. Don’t hit the brakes if you start to skid.

  • If you start to skid. Don’t panic and slam on the brakes, it can make the skid worse.
  • If skidding, continue to look and steer the vehicle in the direction you want to go.

Driving in ice and snow conditions can be very challenging. If road conditions are hazardous or you don’t feel comfortable with your ability to drive in the conditions, avoid driving if possible. Wait until road and weather conditions improve before you venture out in your vehicle.

It’s always a good idea to check weather forecasts, traffic reports and road conditions so you can give yourself extra time to get to your destination and not be surprised by the weather or road conditions. It’s best to “know before you go” if you’re just heading off to work or driving across the state.

AAA handles an average of 12,000 emergency roadside assistance calls per week during the winter here in Washington, the most common problems being dead batteries, extractions, towing and flat tires. If you’re taking a road trip during the winter months, it’s a good idea to have a basic winter survival kit in your vehicle in the event you become stopped in traffic during a highway or pass closure or end up off the road waiting to be rescued. 

The emergency kit should include;

  • Bag of abrasive materials such as sand, salt or cat litter for gaining traction in snow and ice
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Blanket
  • Warning flare or triangles
  • Cellular phone and emergency charger
  • Food and water
  • First aid kit

For more tips and winter driving advice from AAA, download a free copy of How to Go on Ice and Snow.

AAA Washington has been serving members and the traveling public since 1904. The organization provides a variety of exclusive benefits, including roadside assistance, discounts, maps and personalized trip planning, to its million plus members. In addition, its full-service travel and insurance agencies provide products and services for members and the public. Additional information is available through the company’s offices in Washington and northern Idaho, at, or by calling 1-800-562-2582.

Media Contacts

Jennifer Cook (425) 646-2055