Winter Driving

6 Winter Driving Tips

Following these tips will help you maintain control of your vehicle on icy or snowy roads. For more tips and techniques, see the bottom of the page for videos on winter driving from states across the country.

#1  Take it slow. On icy and snowy roads, there is less traction between your vehicle tires and the road. Driving slowly helps you maneuver the car better and stay in control.

#2  Avoid sudden braking and acceleration. Start slow, stop slow: Slow acceleration and slow, controlled braking can help you avoid skidding on icy surfaces.

#3  Be alert. While you may be doing all the right things to drive safely on winter roads, others may not be. Staying aware of other drivers and your surroundings will allow you to react quickly and avoid accidents.

#4  Don’t use cruise control. Having full control of your car is key to driving safely on hazardous winter roads. The automatic features of cruise control could accelerate your car when the tires have lost traction, which could cause you to lose control of the vehicle.

#5  Don’t tailgate. Follow at a safe distance from the car in front of you. It takes a greater distance to stop your vehicle when the roads are snowy or icy.

#6  Turn off auto-driving features. If you have an automated vehicle, disengage auto features so you have full control of the vehicle.

How to Maneuver Around Snowplows

Snowplows often move at slower speeds than surrounding traffic. Give plow drivers the space they need to clear the roads effectively and efficiently. Knowing how to drive alongside and around snowplows helps reduce accidents for everyone on the road.

  • Don’t follow too closely behind a snowplow; stay at least 200 feet behind it. In some states, it is illegal to follow within a certain distance.
  • Never pass a snowplow on the right. Some snowplows are equipped with a wing plow on the right side of the truck.
  • Be aware of where snowplows are. Plows have large blind spots (see graphics below) where the plow driver cannot see you.
  • Don’t drive through a snow cloud. Snow clouds created by plows can conceal other vehicles or hazards on the road.

Navigating Around “Echelon Plowing”

Echelon plowing is the practice of operating snowplows side-by-side across all lanes of a multi-lane highway to clear snow from several lanes at once. This is an effective method to safely and efficiently move the most snow on highways. If you encounter an echelon plowing operation, be patient and follow at a safe distance behind the plows. It is extremely dangerous for drivers to try to pass between or around the plows.

View a short video of echelon plowing on the right.

Virginia DOT
Prepare for Winter Driving
Winter Driving Tips
Minnesota DOT
Winter Driving Safety
Illinois DOT
Winter Driving Tips
Tips for Safe Winter Driving
Missouri DOT
Get Behind the Plow


North Dakota DOT – Be a Safe Driver Around Plows
Maine DOT – Driving Safely Behind a Plow
Illinois DOT – Don’t Crowd the Plow
New York – Echelon Plowing