5 On Your Side

How to stay safe on winter roads

Posted January 3, 2018 6:29 p.m. EST

Stay off the road in a winter storm if you don't have to be anywhere, but if you must go out, Consumer Reports has some advice for safe travels:

1. Don't let snow or ice flying off your car put others at risk. Before you set out, take the few minutes to clear it all off so it doesn't it doesn't damage someone else's vehicle or cause them to crash.

2. Slow down and leave about twice the distance you normally would between you and the car in front of you to give yourself more time to react, if needed.

3. No quick turns, no quick stops. Pretend there's a hot cup of coffee on the dash that you're trying not to spill.

4. Don't think four-wheel drive makes you invincible. While it can help get your car going in the snow, it has no added benefit when stopping.

5. If you begin to slide, here's the best way to regain control: "What most of us are likely to experience, because most of us drive front-wheel drive cars, is a condition called 'understeer,' where you're turning but the car keeps going straight," said Jen Stockburger, Consumer Reports auto expert. "You may have to slightly unwind in order to get your traction back. Stay off the brakes. Stay off the throttle."

Or you could experience "oversteer" if your car turns more than you intended. If that happens, turn the wheel in the same direction the rear of the car is sliding and don't touch the accelerator or the brakes until you regain control.

6. Keep a winter emergency kit in your car in case you're stranded, a flashlight, a first aid kit, extra batteries, a bungee cord, a reflective vest, battery booster cables, a little shovel and some snacks and water.