Written by Mary Adams, OnStar

Chilly weather has arrived across the U.S., which means it’s time for a winter driving refresher to help you stay safe on the roads this season.

It might seem obvious that snowfall and icy roads make driving more dangerous, but it’s something that drivers need to carefully account for before getting on the road this winter. Snow affects people in more parts of the country than you might realize – in fact, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, over 70 percent of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions and nearly 70 percent of the U.S. population lives in these regions.

Before you embark on your first winter drive of the season, check out these tips from OnStar on how to “winterize” your vehicle:

  • Understand Your Vehicle: Familiarize yourself with the different traction and stability control systems and make sure you have the system you’d like to use turned on. Most manufacturers offer stability control systems and some have selections for Winter, Sport and other modes.
  • Have Back-up for Your Cell Phone: Have a lifeline in your vehicle, like OnStar. OnStar’s automatic crash response system can find your exact location – even when weather conditions might make it difficult to see you. OnStar also has a dedicated cell phone built-in (a back-up in case your phone’s cell reception is not working or your phone battery is dead) and have EMD trained emergency advisors who can provide medical instructions until help arrives.
  • Prep Your Windshield: Repair cracks and stone chips before the cold weather sets in to prevent further cracking in cold temperatures. Do NOT drive until your windshield and windows are defogged and clear of ice or snow.  Be sure to have a windshield scraper/brush to keep all windows clean.
  • Prepare for Roadside Assistance: Keep snow boots and gloves, a shovel, cell phone and charger, a flash light and other helpful items handy. If you plan to use a tow strap or jumper cables, be sure you know how to use them safely.  If you have a roadside assistance service, make sure to have that phone number readily available or use your OnStar which comes standard with roadside assistance at no additional cost.
  • Electric vehicles: Owners of EVs need to prepare for cold weather by checking their battery life. EV’s have a shorter driving range in cold weather so keep your battery fully charged in case of an emergency. If you have an extended range electric vehicle, like the Chevrolet Volt, make sure to keep fuel in the tank as a backup plan.

Now that your car is prepped for winter driving, we’re also offering drivers some tips to consider while they’re driving on the road this winter.

  • Accelerate slowly to reduce wheel spin. If starting from a standstill on slick snow or ice, start in second gear if you have a manual transmission or gear-selectable automatic so the vehicle is less likely to spin the tires.
  • Reduce your speed and drive smoothly. In slippery conditions, tires lose their grip more easily, affecting all aspects of your driving: braking, turning, and accelerating. Keeping the speeds down will give you more time to react to slippage or a possible collision, and it will lessen the damage should things go wrong.
  • Allow longer braking distances. Plan on starting your braking sooner than you normally would in dry conditions to give yourself extra room, and use more gentle pressure on the brake pedal.
  • Don’t lock your wheels when braking. Locked wheels can make the vehicle slide or skid. If you have an older vehicle without an antilock braking system (ABS), you may need to gently apply the brakes repeatedly in a pulsing motion to avoid having them lock up the wheels. If your vehicle has ABS, simply depress the brake pedal firmly and hold it down. The shuddering sounds and pedal feeling is expected (don’t lift off the brake); the system is doing its job.
  • Perform one action at a time when accelerating, braking, and turning. Asking a vehicle to do two things at once–such as braking and turning, or accelerating and turning–can reduce your control. When taking a turn on a slippery surface, for instance, slowly apply the brakes while the vehicle is going straight.
  • Avoid sudden actions when cornering. A sudden maneuver–such as hard braking, a quick turn of the steering wheel, sudden acceleration, or shifting a manual transmission –can upset a vehicle’s dynamics when it’s taking a turn. Rapidly transferring the weight from one end or corner to another can throw a car off balance. In slick conditions, this can cause it to more easily go out of control.
  • Be ready to correct for a slide. Should the rear end of the vehicle begin to slide during a turn, gently let off on the accelerator and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. This will help straighten it out. Electronic stability control will also help keep control in a slide situation.

For more tips on how to prepare for the winter season visit www.Ready.gov/winter-weather.

Mary Ann Adams, Subscriber Crisis Incident Manager, is responsible for the customer experience during severe weather, crisis and large-scale events. Adams joined OnStar in 2003 as a Manager in the Service Delivery/Call Center Operations.  She was appointed to her current position in 2007 where she oversees the day-to-day activities of event monitoring and incident management relative to OnStar’s response to supports its subscribers.