Are you going to be driving in the snow? Depending on where you live, work and play, driving in snowy conditions may be unavoidable

More than 70 percent of roads in the United States are located in regions with frequent snowfall, according to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). And nearly 70 percent of the population live in these areas. That’s a lot of people on the road each snow season, and the numbers reflect the danger:

Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet, according to the FHA.

“Don’t drive in the snow if you can avoid it,” says Harding Bush, security operations manager at Global Rescue. “Especially if you do not have the experience.”

Yet, for many, driving on roads that are wet or snowy is unavoidable. Here are some tips for driving in the snow, and how you can prepare.

  1. Check the weather. “Blizzards are predictable,” Bush says. “When you hear about bad weather coming, pay close attention. You do not want to get caught in one of these storms.”
  2. Always have a full tank of gas. “What would usually take 15 minutes could take 2 – 3 hours if there is snow,” he says. “Always make sure you have a full tank of gas.”
  3. Pack your car with emergency supplies. Bush packs his car with warm clothing, including a pair of winter boots, a warm parka, a wool hat and waterproof mittens; hand and foot warmers; a sleeping bag; a small shovel to clear out the exhaust pipe, if needed; a ready-made snow safety kit. Bush says to make sure you know what is in it and how to use each item. Read more tips here.
  4. Prepare your car for winter travel with snow tires and more. Replace your tires with snow tires and consider tire siping, too, they have treads designed to improve traction on snow. Top off your antifreeze and your windshield wiper fluid. Bush says you’re likely to use a lot of it in a snowstorm and suggests keeping two extra gallons of it in your car.

AWD vs 4WD vs FWD vs RWD

Are you driving a car equipped with all-wheel-drive (AWD), four-wheel-drive (4WD), front-wheel-drive (FWD), or rear-wheel drive (RWD)? Each drive system has its pros and cons and you need to know what capabilities it has on the road. Here’s how to look at the different drives and their capabilities, according to US News & World Report.

FWD vehicles provide superior traction compared to RWD cars in rainy and snowy conditions but they can lose grip easier than AWD vehicles. AWD vehicles have better traction than front-wheel-drive vehicles since every wheel gets power. If one tire begins to slip, three others can work to regain traction.

Not all AWD systems work the same way. Some systems deliver power to all four wheels at all times, other AWD systems are considered part-time since the rear wheels only get power when necessary.

AWD cars and SUVs are ideal for driving over snow-covered roads and in various off-road conditions, but not on slick ice.

4WD systems send equal amounts of power to all four wheels at the same time and are generally much more robust than AWD systems.

Snow Tires, Studded Tires, Siping, and Snow Chains

Snow tires, also called winter tires, have a tread design with larger gaps than those on conventional tires, increasing traction on snow and ice. Tire siping – cutting thin slits across the surface of a tire – is a process to improve traction for driving in snowy, wet or icy conditions.

Bush recommends using your all-season tires for everyday driving in less harsh conditions but to use snow tires in winter for potential travel on snow-covered roads. Even if you have an all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive winter tires can be essential.

“If the tires are heavily worn or of a type that is not suitable for snowy/icy/extremely cold conditions, even the best AWD or 4WD systems won’t be able to overcome the traction limitations posed by the tires,” Bridgestone Tire says. “That’s why, if you must drive in severe winter weather, installing a set of winter snow tires can dramatically improve vehicle control regardless of the drive system.”

Should you use studded snow tires? Studded tires have metal studs inserted into the tread to increase grip on ice, making it easier to start and stop on the least friendly road surfaces imaginable, according to Michelin, one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world.

Studded tires provide the best traction you can get, even when you’re encountering ice or packed snow, according to Les Schwab Tires, a private tire retailer with nearly 500 locations in the Western U.S. “They help break through packed snow and ice-covered roads to give you better traction.”

Studded winter tires are always permitted in some states – like New Hampshire and Colorado, restricted in others – like Connecticut and California, and not allowed in a few – like Texas and Michigan. Check your state here.

Consider snow chains. “Whether you put on snow chains or not depends on where you live and what the conditions are,” Bush said. “You will not see many cars with snow chains on the Eastern side of the U.S., but when you get to the Rockies, having them on hand for driving in some areas is essential.”

Slow Down

Even if you have all you need to be prepared, and your car is in top shape, remember to drive at the speed at which you can safely control your vehicle.

“No matter what your experience level, everything is going to take longer,” Bush says. “Your reactions will be slower, turning the wheel will take more time, braking distances will be longer, and you won’t be able to do lane changes as fast as you usually can. Drive further behind people, and drive slowly.”

Travel Prepared

Whether you’re seeking outdoor advice, like snow driving safety tips, or immediate medical or security assistance, Global Rescue operations centers are staffed 24/7/365 to assist members. Click here to contact us about the benefits of membership.

No request is too small. We want you to call with questions. Asking early about destination conditions, a symptom or an injury is an important preventative step, and it’s always good to get in front of an issue before it becomes a crisis.

Unlike other companies, the medical, security, and intelligence expertise is all in-house at Global Rescue. The operations centers are staffed by experienced nurses, paramedics, and military special operations veterans. Experts have experience with hazardous environments, peacekeeping operations, Himalayan expeditions, protection services as well as wilderness skills, and crisis response training. Global Rescue members can tap into this wealth of knowledge with every phone call.