4 Safety Tips for Winter Driving

The air is crisp and cold, and white snowflakes begin to fall from the sky… winter has arrived. As a teen driver’s parent or guardian, it is nerve-wracking each winter your teen is behind the wheel, especially the first one. The chance of your teen getting into a collision skyrockets, especially if they are not equipped with the proper preparation, tools, education, and skills. You are your teen’s best defense to safely ensure they are prepared to take on winter driving conditions. Throughout this blog, I will help you develop a great plan to ensure your teen’s safety when they begin to drive independently during the snowy season.

Vehicle Preparation

Before driving, the vehicle your teen will be operating must be equipped with an emergency kit. If you do not have an emergency kit, this is a great project to work on with your teen! Have your teen pick different objects that should be placed in the kit. For the items they may have missed, explain the importance of the item and when it can be used. For ideas on items that should be placed in your kit, visit our blog post 3 Tips to Ensure Your Teen is Prepared for a Vehicle Emergency. Some winter-specific items include a blanket, shovel, snowbrush, jumper cables, tow rope, extra fluids, and sand.

Vehicle maintenance is another crucial aspect. The vehicle your teen will be driving must be ready for the winter conditions. What does vehicle maintenance include?

  • Regular oil changes
  • Fluid top-ups (brake fluid, non-freeze or whatever it is called 😉 windshield washer fluid, coolant, power steering fluid, transmission fluid)
  • Checking state of wiper blades
  • Changing tires and checking the tread

Speaking of tires, do you have winter tires for the vehicle your teen will be driving? If not, it might be time to consider investing in a set. What makes winter tires so special? Are they even worth it? The answer is yes! Winter tires are built for not only cold temperatures but for extra traction on snow and ice. The extra traction is due to the softer rubber that is used. Installing winter tires on the vehicle your teen will be driving will help them drive more confidently and give them better braking abilities during winter conditions.

"Tests conducted by Tire Rack saw a 35 percent improvement in braking when using winter tires over standard all-season tires"

AutoBlog, 2018

Road Conditions

Speaking of braking, a step that many new drivers and even experienced drivers make is forgetting to test the road conditions before getting to a busy street or intersection. Veteran crash investigator and driving instructor, Mike Pehl, explains the importance of testing road conditions on a quiet street in the video below.

Winter can bring on all sorts of conditions, which include:

Show your teen the importance of testing the road conditions when you are practicing driving with them. Ensure they can feel the difference between dry roads and icy roads. The more supervised practice hours that your teen gets in different winter conditions, the better prepared they will feel and be when they begin to drive independently.

Controlling a Skid

Icy roads make a great playing field for vehicles skidding. Ensuring that your teen knows how to handle a skid properly is much more than just explaining what to do in the situation. While you are in the driver’s seat and your teen in the passenger, show them first how to control the skid while talking through each step. As they begin to drive under your supervision, it is vital to calmy talk your teen through the steps as the skid happens.

  1. Remind your teen to stay calm (and yourself too!)
  2. Have your teen look in the direction that they want to go
  3. Remind your teen to avoid accelerating and braking as either will make the situation worse
  4. Avoid any quick movements
  5. Steer in the OPPOSITE direction
winter driving

Speeding & Following Distance

Increased speeds and decreased following distance both increase the chance of a collision, especially during winter conditions. Emphasize the importance of adjusting speed and following distance to road conditions to your teen. In the video above, Mike demonstrates how long it takes his vehicle to come to a complete stop on icy roads at 30mph.

"Environmental conditions were cited as a major contributing factor in over 30% of collisions"

Greg Monforton & Partners, 2020

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that your teen gets plenty of supervised driving hours! Practice will not only equip your teen with the skills they need to drive safely, but it will also instill confidence in them! Be patient and slowly increase the difficulty of driving as your teen progresses. Every teen learns differently and at a different pace. Just as a quick reminder, here is a checklist that you can use to ensure that you have covered all of the bases when ensuring that your teen is ready to drive in winter conditions independently.

For more information on planning a program that works for you and your teen, visit our homepage to learn more about the Coaching New Drivers program and how it can help you today! 


Coach Bill

Coach Bill

Bill is the Managing Partner of Coaching New Drivers and has a vast background in driver education. Bill is passionate about technology-based driver assessment and has gained extensive knowledge and experience through lecturing on driving topics across North America, Australia, and Asia. Bill is a parent to two teens who he has also successfully coached during the Learner’s permit stage.

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