Drive To Survive In Winter Weather


We realize the difficulty of driving during the harsh conditions of winter weather. The skilled drivers at the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (MDOT SHA) have years of training and experience dealing with snow and icy conditions. Here is our advice.

Tips: Driving when it snows

  • snow pictureBuckle up and make your passengers do the same.
  • When a snow emergency is declared, avoid driving. If you must drive, allow extra time to get where you are going. When roadways are icy or snow-covered, never drive as you would during clear weather and when road surfaces are dry.
  • Beware: Four-wheel drive vehicles are just as vulnerable to slipping on ice as regular two-wheel drive vehicles.
  • If your car begins to skid, don't slam on your brakes. Take your foot off the gas pedal and immediately steer in the direction of the skid.
  • Increase following distance between your vehicle and others on the road, especially snowplows. Packed snow and ice create a smooth, glass-like surface beneath your tires, making it difficult to control your vehicle. So, keep your distance.
  • Bridges and ramps freeze first and may be especially difficult to navigate.
  • “Don’t Crowd the Plow” – Never pass a snow plow or salt truck, and be especially respectful of a plow train! A plow train is a group of trucks that forms a line across lanes to clear snow. Operators may not see you and your car may get caught on a snow-covered plow edge. Driving will be easier if you stay at least 25 feet, or three car-lengths, behind the snow emergency vehicle.
  • If you are stranded, don't abandon your vehicle. The safest place to wait for help is in your car. If your car breaks down, move your vehicle as far off the roadway as possible and lift the hood. Leave a distress signal, such as a scarf, hanging from the window. Note: If you abandon your vehicle, it will be subject to towing, ticketing and a fine.
  • When shoveling snow from your driveway, create a pile away from the roadway. A good rule is to shovel to the right when facing the street. Do not shovel the snow onto an area that will be plowed back onto the driveway when the State, county or city snowplows come through.

Things to check before taking the wheel

  • Pack a winter driving survival kit – include a shovel, blanket, water, jumper cables, flares, snacks and a flash light.
  • Before taking to the road, go to CHART to view traffic cameras and STORM to see if snow plows have reached your area.
  • Check your car's antifreeze, oil, battery, defroster, heater, wipers and washer fluid level.
  • Travel with plenty of gas in the tank.
  • Inspect the tires to be sure there is adequate tread. Check air pressure to ensure proper inflation. Use radials or chains during snow emergencies.
  • If you must travel, leave early and allow plenty of time to reach your destination.

And finally

Take time to remove all ice and snow from your car, concentrating on the windows, wipers, mirrors and lights. To reduce the chance of snow flying off your vehicle while driving, remove snow and ice from the front grill, hood and roof. Good visibility is essential for a safe journey. You need to see and be seen by others.