Safe Driving on Snow and Ice

Albuquerque residents are no strangers to snow…but we’re used to the minimal-accumulation-that-melts-by-noon snow. That may not be the conditions you’re headed into if you’re traveling for the holidays. Whether you think you’re a seasoned pro (pun intended) or you’re new to winter weather driving, here’s some advice to keep you safe…and out of our collision repair shop.

An Ounce of Prevention

If at all possible, prevent all accidents—don’t drive in snowy and icy conditions. If you must venture out, you should know that safe winter driving has less to do with technique, more to do with preparation. So, follow

the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared!


  1. Read this entire blog before heading out!
  2. Winterize your car to make sure you are ready for cold weather. Belts, hoses and the liquids running through them act differently in (sub) freezing temperatures. See your local maintenance shop to help you top off and tighten up and double check everything from your coolant level to your tire pressure.
  3. Before you hit the road, make sure you can see the road—clear your front and rear windshields completely, make sure your wiper blades are in good condition (change them if necessary) and clean your headlamps.
  4. Don’t assume that just because you can see trouble coming that you can avoid it. Pack your car with everything you’ll need to either get un-stuck or safely wait for help to arrive:
  •   Kitty litter, gravel, salt—something that can give your tires traction if you get stuck in a snow bank or ice patch
  •   Shovel
  •   Spare tire…and everything you need to change it (jack, tire iron)
  •   Jumper cables
  •   Blanket
  •   Flashlight
  •   First Aid Kit
  •   Reflective warning triangles and/or road flares
  •   Non-perishable food


It sounds like a lot of stuff, but many of these items you should have in your trunk all year for emergencies. If you don’t already, add them to the Christmas shopping list!

Timing is Everything

If you have to drive in snow and ice, wait until the roads have been cleared—plowed, salted or sanded. Once you’re on the road, SLOW DOWN! Give yourself about 3 times as much space as usual (or as much as you know you should 😉 between you and the vehicle in front of you. You’ll need extra distance to slow down on roads with reduced traction, especially because slamming on your brakes is a winter driving no-no—it’s likely to send you skidding out of control.

What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?

In the event that you do lose traction on icy roads, there are techniques that can help you more safely recover control of your vehicle.


If your back tires lose traction:


  • Let off the accelerator
  • Steer into the direction the tail of your car is going. Jerking the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the slide will just send you spinning.
  • Apply steady but not slamming pressure on your brakes


If your front tires lose traction:


  • Let off the accelerator
  • Shift into neutral; don’t brake
  • Do not correct your steering until you feel traction return


As much as possible, remain calm. Roadside assistance can pick you up. We can fix your car. And your insurance policy may cover it all. (Find out how to file an insurance claim next week.)