Unless you enjoy living dangerously, getting behind the wheel in a winter storm probably isn’t your idea of fun.
“Road surfaces can change quickly between dry, snow-packed and icy — all of which require a different approach to steering and stopping,” says Leslie Kasperowicz, a Minneapolis driver who edits CarInsurance.org, a car insurance website.
The trick, pros like Kasperowicz say, is to stay ahead of the weather, pack the right gear, and make sure you understand the fundamentals of bad-weather driving.
If you’re driving in winter conditions, what should you pack in the car? For a list, I turned to Jess Larsen, who grew up snowboarding in northern Alberta and is a vice president for an ad agency in Provo, Utah. He’s driven in whiteout conditions many times, and he still gets a chance to practice his winter-driving skills on the way to Utah’s ski resorts.
Here’s what Larsen carries:
One more item you shouldn’t leave home without: a roadside-assistance program.
"Shell out the cash to AAA or something like that," Larsen says. "Then make sure everybody in your family programs the number into their phone."
All of which brings us to the best strategies for winter driving. Assuming you’ve downloaded the right apps and packed the car with everything you need, what now?
Practice your winter driving. Larsen recommends finding an empty parking lot after a snowstorm. "Try getting yourself into a spin and seeing how fast you can recover," he says. Also, practice turning at various speeds and stopping. Get a feel for how your car responds in snow.
"As far as driving itself, nothing can compete with meaningful repetitions," Larsen adds.
And, finally, slow down, experts say. Kamrowski, who grew up in Fargo, N.D., says that all too often motorists will pass you on an icy highway and then "you drive a few miles down the road and see them in the ditch."
If you must drive, you will want to have a smartphone app to help with traffic conditions and finding the best route.
But the best advice for driving in severe winter weather is: If you can avoid taking the car out while it’s snowing, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble.