New Driver, Bad Roads: Tips For Safe Driving in Fall and Winter

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For most of us, fall and winter mean a change in the weather; as the temperatures begin to drop, road conditions become more dangerous. Driving in rain, ice or snow can be a nerve-wracking experience for new drivers. Here are some tips to keep you safe on the roads when the weather takes a turn for the worst.

Slow Down

Hopefully this one is obvious: if you’re traveling on wet or snowy roads, you should reduce your speed. Speed limits are based on ideal conditions, and if you are driving through heavy snow, you’re not going to be able to go as fast as you would on a clear, warm day. Allow yourself more time to get to your destination if you must drive in the snow. And don’t think that rain is harmless — when the roads are wet, oil and other fluids from cars add to the mix, making the asphalt even slicker.

Don't be this person.

Don’t be this person.

Increase Following Distance

In addition to slowing down, you should allow for more distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you. The normal following distance rule of 3 to 4 seconds should become 8 to 10 seconds in wet and snowy weather. This will make it easier to stop if you need to.

Use Your Headlights

When you’re driving in the rain or snow, you should have your headlights on; in fact, many states require you to have your lights on if your windshield wipers are in operation . This will improve your visibility and allow other drivers to see you. When driving through rain or snow at night, you might be tempted to put on your high beams. Don’t. The glare from the high beams will reflect off of the rain or snow, and actually make it harder to see.


What you’ll see when you turn on your high beams in the snow? Not much.

Don’t Slam On Your Brakes

Unfortunately, skidding and slipping are common occurrences in snowy weather, and when you find yourself losing control of your car, the natural inclination is to brake hard. But slamming on the brakes actually makes things worse: it causes your brakes to lock up, which in turn makes your tires stop spinning. Now your car is basically a sled; you’ve lost traction, making it even more difficult for you to control the vehicle. Instead of immediately hitting the brakes, ease off the accelerator when you feel the car start to skid. This will allow the car to slow down on its own. Most recent model cars come equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS); if you don’t have ABS, pump the brakes quickly.

Pretty easy, right? A little common sense actually goes a long way when it comes to driving on treacherous roads.

October 19th through the 23rd is  National Teen Driver Safety Week . This week, and our sister site I Drive Safely  will be sharing a lot of great information aimed at teen drivers and their parents — tips that will help everyone in your family stay safe on the roads.   And for teens and their parents in California and Texas, we’re offering something extra — we’re giving away over 2,000 hours’ worth of online California and Texas driver training course! To enter to win one of the 35 iDriveSafely California Online Drivers Education Courses for novice drivers (30 hours each), California teens 14 and older can email . To enter to win one of 15 Parent-Taught Drivers Education Courses for novice drivers (86 hours each), Texas teens should email .  The courses have a retail value of $64.95 and $149, respectively. Find full rules for the giveaway at