Whether you’re planning a drive from California to Washington, or you’re flying to Lake Michigan for a week, winter weather can get pretty tricky. If you're not used to driving in the snow or come from somewhere warm, it can be especially daunting. Here are five tips on how to make getting around in the snow a whole lot easier.

How To Drive In The Snow: 5 Key Tips To Remember

1. Keep key items in your trunk

In these cold temperatures, its important that you keep a few key items in your trunk, so you are always prepared for the worst scenario. Blankets, water bottles, and a flashlight are important items to have, just in case your car brakes down on the side of the road. It would also be wise to keep cat litter in your trunk, so if your tires get stuck in snow or ice, you can get traction to prevent your car from spinning out. If you know your car is top heavy, get some heavy items from around the house or a few bags of mulch and put them in the back of your car, to weigh it down and prevent sliding into turns.

2. Know your brakes

It’s wise to know what kind of brakes you have in your car before you set out for a drive in the snow. If you have anti-lock brakes and find yourself needing to come to a quick stop, press down firmly on the brake, even if it vibrates a little. If your car doesn’t have anti-lock brakes, coming to a quick stop in the snow means threshold braking: keeping your heel on the ground and pressing firmly on the brake pedal with the ball of your foot. If you find yourself going up a hill, don’t use the brakes—keep the inertia going so you can power up and over the hill.

3. Accelerate and decelerate slowly

If you tend to speed up and slow down at a faster pace, you may want to slow it down a bit in the winter. With the roads covered in snow and ice, it’s harder for the tires on your car to gain traction on the road. Accelerating and decelerating too quickly can cause you to skid on the road, and maybe even spin out. Be sure to start up slowly, so your car can regain some traction. When stopping, give yourself plenty of time to stop before a stoplight or stop sign. It takes a lot longer to slow down on icy roads.

4. Increase your following distance

Normally, you are supposed to keep a good three to four seconds in between you and the car in front of you; but in the winter, you’ll want to up this distance to around eight to ten seconds. This much space will give you plenty of time to stop, while also preventing you from a car accident if you find your car sliding over some ice, or if the car in front of you stops abruptly or gets caught on some ice.

5. Keep at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times

When driving in the winter, you need to make sure you always have at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times. The worst possible thing that could happen while driving in the winter is running out of gas in the middle of the road somewhere. Winter temperatures can drop to pretty low levels below zero, so it’s important that you prevent yourself from getting stuck by always having enough gas.

If you ever do find yourself stuck on the side of the road this winter, tie a piece of cloth to the top of your cars antenna, or just to the top of your car, to alert people that you need assistance. If you have no need to be out in the winter, the best advice we have to offer is to stay in: no need to take any preventative action if you don’t need to be out in the cold!

This article was written by Kellyn Nettles, who grew up in Ohio and knows all about driving in the snow.