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How to Drive on Ice and Snow in Georgia

Atlanta and North Georgia were hit by a snowstorm last Friday, catching some Georgians by surprise. The traditional scramble for milk and bread ensued, but many were left unprepared to deal with the icy conditions and thick blankets of snow left behind. Fortunately, most of the ice and snow began melting by Saturday afternoon.

Snow and ice storms typically arrive between late January and early March, so Georgia could see more snow before spring arrives.

There are several ways you can prepare for any adverse winter weather conditions yet to come. Preparing ahead of time will help keep you calm and safe, improving your ability to make sound decisions and stay warm.

Build a Winter Driving Kit

The following items should be included in your vehicle's emergency driving kit (including traditional items like flashlights, flares, warning triangles and jumper cables):

  • Bag of abrasive material such as sand or salt
  • Small snow shovel
  • Snow brush
  • Ice scraper
  • Traction mats
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Blankets
  • Mobile phone and charger cord or battery pack


Make sure your headlights are clean and your turn signals and brake lights are working. Have your vehicle's battery inspected, especially if you drive an electric or hybrid car. Cold weather often reduces the amount of power batteries output, so make sure your vehicle is fully charged and warmed up before driving.

Because winter weather makes driving even more hazardous than usual, it is vital to have your brakes and tires checked. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and have enough tread to gain traction. While winter tires are better suited for driving on ice and snow, Georgia doesn't receive enough snow to warrant the expense.

Before Driving

If it snows, the safest option is to remain indoors. But if you have to drive, here are some important tips to remember:

  • If your car is inside a garage, open the door before turning on the car.
  • If your car is outside, clear off all of the snow and ice from the lights, hood, mirrors, roof, and rear bumper before or while defrosting. Leaving snow or ice on the vehicle is a driving hazard, as chunks can fly off and crash into unsuspecting drivers or cause others to veer out of the debris' way.
  • If there is deep snow around the car and the wheels have trouble gaining traction, shovel a path or gently drive the car backward and forward to create space. Spinning your tires against the snow or ice will only dig you in further.

While Driving

When driving on ice and snow, increase your follow distance of other vehicles. The normal follow distance is about 3-4 seconds from the object the vehicle ahead is currently passing. Increase your follow distance to 8-10 seconds or more as it much harder to stop on icy surfaces. It also gives you more room in case someone else loses control around or ahead of you.

When driving up a hill, observe the speed of vehicles ahead of you and adjust accordingly. Accelerate enough to get to the crest of the hill -- going too slow can cause you to become stuck. Once you reach the hillcrest, release the accelerator and let your momentum carry you over the top. If you need to decelerate while driving down a hill, squeeze or pump your brakes, but only if necessary. The goal is to minimize brake use while going down slippery, icy hills.


Use calm, smooth and precise steering motions. Quick jerks of the wheel can cause you to skid. However, if you cannot brake in time to avoid an object, take evasive action by steering around it.


If you have an antilock brake system (ABS) and you need to slow down quickly, keep your foot on the brake. The shaking or vibrating you feel is normal -- it is your vehicle's computer pumping the brakes for you but at a much faster rate than humanly capable.

If you do not have antilock brakes, use threshold braking: plant the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply pressure until you reach the "threshold" of locking your brakes.


If you begin to skid, don't panic. There are several steps you can take to regain control of your vehicle.

Rear-Wheel Skid

  1. Do not slam on your brakes.
  2. Focus on the path you want to go.
  3. Steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
  4. When the rear wheels stop skidding, continue steering.

Front-Wheel Skid

  1. Do not slam on your brakes.
  2. Focus on the path you want to go.
  3. Steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
  4. Wait for the wheels to grip the road.
  5. Once they've gained traction, steer in the direction you want to go.

Stopped or Stalled

If you feel conditions are too dangerous to drive in or you experience vehicle problems, pull over to a safe area on the side of the road. Remain inside your vehicle unless there is a building nearby to take shelter in.

If you were involved in an accident caused by sleet, snow or ice, check on the other driver if it is safe to do so. Being in an accident is scary, especially in unusual circumstances. Driving in snowy or icy conditions is also difficult -- even for people used to such weather.

If you're stuck in your vehicle, do not let the engine idle for a long period of time with the windows up. Crack the windows and check on your exhaust pipe every so often to clear snow or ice from blocking it. Run the engines and heat for about 10 minutes each hour to conserve your vehicle's fuel and battery life.

Were you or someone you know involved in a car accident caused by inclement weather? Call the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates at 770-934-8000 for a free consultation. It's completely confidential and our team of attorneys will work hard to get you the best result possible.

Further Reading

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