One of the biggest hazards of winter driving is slippery roads. During winter conditions, drive slower, especially around curves. If you're driving slower, it will be easier to stop the car when necessary. On a wet, icy, or snowy road, you should allow yourself at least three times longer to reach a full stop than you would on dry pavement. That means your safe following distance should be at least three times farther as well.
To practice handling skids, you may want to consider a winter driving school. They're listed in the yellow pages and on the Internet. When you contact the school, ask if they offer hands-on experience, which usually consists of practicing on a wet or icy empty parking lot or roadway. Practicing in a safe, supervised environment may help prepare you for a real situation. Here are some basic rules of thumb just to get you started:
Braking: If you're skidding on a wet, icy, or snowy roadway, don't panic and slam on the brakes. This could worsen the skid. To best handle the situation, you need to know what kind of brakes you have and how to use them properly. You can find out by consulting your owner's manual or by asking a mechanic.
Braking if you don't have anti-lock brakes: Gently pump the brakes. Keep your heel rooted at the foot of the brake pedal, and pump the brake with your toes only. Be careful not to apply too much pressure at once.
Braking with anti-lock brakes: With your heel rooted at the foot of the brake pedal, apply gentle, steady pressure with your toes. Keep your foot firmly on the brake pedal until the car comes to a full stop.
Steering: The way you handle the steering wheel can affect a skid. Using timely and gentle movements is the key. If your car is skidding in one direction, and you turn the steering wheel quickly in the opposite direction, this may send your car into a whole new skid. Use small movements of the steering wheel to guide the car in a safe direction.
Note: Beware of areas where water has frozen on dark pavement, also known as "black ice." You usually won't know the black ice exists until your car is already on it. To prepare yourself, be alert and drive slowly, especially on freeway overpasses and underpasses, around curves, and in shaded areas.
Don't get caught unprepared on a winter road. Using the guidelines we've outlined here will better ensure you can enjoy that winter wonderland after all--even from behind the wheel.