Driving Instruction

How to Prepare for Winter Driving in Virginia

June 29, 2021

How to Prepare for Winter Driving in Virginia

Despite having hot and humid summers, Virginia can have some intense winters. Virginia often has significant snow events especially in regions farther inland. These snow events can often have up to a foot of snow and even ice. This can often bring extremely hazardous conditions when driving. Here are some pointers to help you stay prepared and safe as you driving in Virginia.

Know your car

Cars can differ massively in their ability to cope with winter driving conditions. There are a lot of terms related to cars that indicate which technologies drivers will have assisting them. Here is a break down of what they mean and what to expect.

Rear Wheel Drive

Cars with these drivetrains deliver power exclusively to the rear wheels. These cars are often hardest to drive in icy or snowy driving conditions. This is because when cars lose traction with rear wheel drive, they often spin uncontrollably. This causes many accidents and can be extremely dangerous. Use special care and discernment when driving in these conditions.

Front Wheel Drive

Cars with these drivetrains deliver power exclusively to the front wheels. While they don’t perform exceptionally in snowy or icy conditions, they perform better than rear wheel drive wheels in general due to the driver still being able to direct the front of the car when in slippery conditions. Caution should be used when driving with front wheel drive cars.

4-Wheel Drive

These cars have drivetrains that deliver power to all 4 Wheels. These cars have exceptional traction in wintry conditions. Because all 4 wheels experience power they are able to pull vehicles out of tough and slick driving conditions. While 4 wheel drive vehicles perform well in wintry conditions it is important to not get too confident when driving in dangerous conditions.

All Wheel Drive

All-wheel drive vehicles perform the best when driving in snow and other wintry conditions. They dynamically deliver power individually to all 4 wheels to account for differences in traction. Cars with these drive trains are much safer in wintry conditions though it is important to still exercise care when driving.

Snow tires

These are tires that are specially designed to increase traction on wintry driving conditions. Some cars may need these to be safe when driving in these conditions.

Be Prepared

It is important to have a winter driving checklist of items to bring when driving in hazardous winter driving conditions. Here are some items to check off.

  1. Make sure your tires have good tread left on them. This can seriously affect the traction of your vehicle.
  2. Blankets in case you are stranded in a storm.
  3. Flashlight
  4. Abrasive material to increase traction if you get stuck like sand or other course materials.
  5. Make sure your car has been recently inspected and that your fluids, especially brake fluids, are full.

Drive with extra caution

If you do choose to drive in wintry conditions, it is extremely important to use extra caution when driving.

Maintain significantly more space between you and cars ahead of you. (It can be very hard to come to a complete stop in slippery conditions.)

Drive slower. (Driver slower to take into account the longer stopping times and greater braking distances.)

Be aware of other drivers. (Pay extra attention to other driver’s speed and direction and drive defensively.)

Make informed driving decisions

Before you attempt to drive in hazardous wintry conditions, carefully consider your experience driving in similar conditions. Also remember and be aware of the capabilities of your vehicle. Make sure your car is prepared for winter driving as well. Monitor local weather reports and consider the chance of unpredictable or changing weather conditions that often arise in winter.