Winter Driving Tips

The weather’s extremely nice in Seattle today but winter driving conditions existed in Western Washington this morning

December 2008

Driving in winter conditions is likely not on your mind on a super gorgeous and relatively warm day like today but, believe it or not, winter driving conditions were present in our area today.  Our neighbors to the south in Tacoma and Olympia had fog and temps in the upper 20s this morning – certainly conditions that could lead to the formation of ice on the roadway.  

We often equate winter driving with snow storms but maybe we should re-think that logic.  After all, Western Washingtonians deal with snowy conditions just a few times a year but ice on our roadways is a wintry condition that is far more common around these parts.  And while SDOT crews work cold nights and mornings applying de-icer to our bridges and roadways, here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to get around in snow, ice, freezing rain, slush or any other weather phenomena that old man winter throws our way:

  • Take it Slow Washington State Trooper Guy Gill said it best, Snow + Ice + Speed = Crash. No matter what type of vehicle you’re driving you simply must slow down in winter conditions to compensate for less traction. 
  • Allow More Room to Stop – Less traction means you’ll need more space to come to a stop.  This is especially true if you are driving downhill.  It’s also important to remember that 4 wheel drive vehicles improve traction but won’t help you stop.  Many collisions can be avoided if you simply follow these first two tips – drive slowly and allow plenty of room to stop. 
  • Leave Extra Space between your vehicle and other vehicles on the roadway.  You never know when a fellow driver may lose control and spin out.  That extra space between you and the other vehicle may be a life saver.
  • Pay Attention and Anticipate Your Next Move – Paying attention is a rule that applies at all times but you should also try to anticipate your next move when driving in winter conditions.  Prepare to stop if you are approaching a stop controlled or signalized intersection, slow down when approaching uncontrolled intersections or shady spots, avoid steep hills, and deliberately make turns.
  • Pull Over to Chain Up – Drivers should pull completely off the road to install chains in the city.  Better yet, do it at home if possible.  Those slippery conditions that made you decide to chain up could cause another driver to lose control and hit you if you are in the roadway installing chains.     

Check out the following links for more winter weather driving tips:

Extensive Winter Driving Tips from AAA

Ice and Snow, Take it Slow – WSDOT

SDOT Winter Weather, Let’s Be Ready Together