Winter Driving Tips

The best course of action to take during winter storms is to stay home, but there are some circumstances that force citizens to take to the roads. Some roads may be in better condition than others, so before leaving, check drivenc.gov for the latest road conditions and traffic cameras.

As road conditions can quickly change, here are some tips to keep you safe:

  • Reduce your speed and leave plenty of room between you and other vehicles.
  • Approach bridges and overpasses with caution since they often become icy prior to roadways. “Wet” pavement may actually be ice if the temperature is below freezing (32 degrees). Do not push your brakes while on a bridge.
  • If you begin to slide, take your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Do not push your brakes.
  • If you need to pull off the highway, set your directional lights to “flashing.”

If You End Up Stranded

  • Do not go out on foot unless you see a building nearby to take shelter.
  • If running the engine to keep warm, crack the window open to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Never let everyone in the car sleep at once. One person should stay awake to watch for rescue crews.
  • Tie a colored cloth to the antenna or door to make yourself visible.

Identifying Ice, Sleet & Freezing Rain

When driving, ice can be very difficult to recognize. The roadway may appear to be wet when in reality what appears to be water may actually be ice. If the temperature outside is below freezing, ice can form on the roads. Bridges and overpasses often get icy faster than ground pavement.

Sleet occurs when liquid precipitation freezes into an ice pellet just before reaching the ground. It can usually accumulate more efficiently than snow, causing roads and sidewalks to become very dangerous in just a short amount of time.

Freezing rain occurs when liquid precipitation—either rain or melted snow—falls on any frozen surface. The liquid freezes on contact, causing sudden ice issues on roads, sidewalks, trees, power lines, the ground and other surfaces whose temperatures are below freezing.

Get more winter driving tips at weather.gov.