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The Most Important Safety Tips for Driving on Icy & Slippery Roads

If you live or have lived in Wisconsin, or anywhere in the Midwest, then you have very likely driven on icy and slippery roads at some point. Simply put: when driving on icy or slippery roads, you should take extra precautions whenever possible.

Open asphalt road in winter


Slippery, icy, and snowy roads can be hazardous. According to, in the Midwest, the first snow typically falls in late October in the Northern states. In Milwaukee specifically, the typical first snow typically falls on in November based on historical data [1]

The most common tips for learning how to drive on icy or slippery roads include:


  1. Avoid Distractions
  2. Create a Safe Environment
  3. Car Checklist (P.O.W.E.R.)
  4. Avoid Cruise Control
  5. Keep Your Distance
  6. Drive Carefully & Consistently
  7. When to Pay More Attention
  8. Have Your Winter Kit Ready


Snow and ice can make a roadway hazardous and it can create dangerous conditions in certain circumstances. It’s important to understand which times roadways are most slippery, and also to learn how to take precautions to avoid a car accident in hazardous winter conditions.

If you have been seriously injured in an accident, please call a Milwaukee car accident attorney for help. For additional ideas on how to drive on icy roads, here are a few tips to avoid potential car accidents in the Winter.


1 - Avoid Driving If You Aren’t Able To Keep Focus

distracted driving woman texting while driving dangerous

It is rather obvious but unfortunately is not always followed…when driving on icy roads you should be focused on the road and the task at hand. Ice can make roads much more slippery and difficult to navigate and this can increase the chances of potentially crashing for various reasons. Drivers may need to take extra precautions to avoid potentially dangerous situations during and after a rain or snowfall.

It is important that the driver remains focused while driving on icy roads.

  • Wait until the road conditions are safer
  • Wait until your awareness or energy level is where it needs to be to drive
  • Ask for help from those around you
  • Call a rideshare company like Uber/Lyft or a taxi


Gruber Law Offices commissioned a Wisconsin Seasonal Crash Study a few years ago that really explains the importance of driving safely during the winter in Wisconsin. 


2 - Create a Safe (Non Distracting) Driving Environment

safety driving safely sign with highway in the background

There are steps that every driver can take to ensure they are not distracted while driving on icy roads, or even dry roads for that matter. We’ve discussed the dangers of loose objects in a car crash, and these objects can also distract drivers before an accident.

Secure Loose Objects: Before you drive on slippery roads, secure loose objects. Not only can loose items impede your control of the car (i.e. water bottles sliding under the foot pedals) but loose items on car seats can slide and distract you from keeping your eyes on the road.

Turn Down The Radio: If you need to focus, turn down the radio to give your full attention to the road and to the task at hand.
Communicate With Passengers: Ask the kiddos in the backseat or other passengers to give you the space you need to drive. (Although kids may be a little more difficult to convince occasionally).

Avoid Texting: Silence your phone, even if it’s hands-free, before you enter the vehicle. On modern smartphones, you can even create a driving mode that does this for you automatically. Here’s a video on how to do that.

No Eating: Eating in the car is a major distraction so avoid it when driving on icy roads.

Ask For A Navigator: If you have a front-seat passenger that is willing and able, ask them to help you navigate the area as an extra set of eyes and they can help you through the icy or snowy roadways.

Of course, there are situations that may arise that are completely out of your control but if possible, consider the steps discussed above to help create a safe environment that will make driving on snow and ice a little bit safer.


3 - Car Checklist (P.O.W.E.R.)

car oil dipstick man checking car as a safety precaution

Before you get into the car, use the P.O.W.E.R. checklist.

P - Petrol (or diesel): Make sure you have enough gas in your car. There is nothing worse than getting stuck on the side of a snowbank, waiting in the cold for a tow truck in a dangerous position.

O - Oil: Take a quick look at the oil dipstick and make sure that you have enough oil and that your oil is still clean enough to hit the open road.

W - Windshield: Ensure that your windshield is clean and your windshield wipers are working. Carefully clean the ice and show off your windshield.

E – Electrics: Before you go out on icy winter roads, be sure to check your headlights and brake lights. Also, check your battery and the corrosion around the connections.

R - Rubber: Inspect your tires for wear and tear. Make sure your tires are filled with enough air and are appropriate the conditions.

Although there may be unforeseen problems with your car, this checklist can potentially help you decrease the chances of an accident out on slippery and snowy roads.


4 - Avoid Using Cruise Control

Drivers should avoid using cruise control while driving on slippery or icy roads.

This could create an even more dangerous situation and increase the chance that you may lose control of your vehicle.

Additionally, cruise control could potentially impact a driver’s ability to react, which is made worse when the roadways are icy or slippery.


5 - Keep Your Distance

Keeping your distance when driving on icy roads is important for several reasons, most importantly, the distance needed to brake and come to a complete stop is much longer than on dry roads.keep your distance sign

When you drive on icy roads, your vehicle's tires have less traction on the slippery surface, which means that it takes longer for your vehicle to come to a stop when you apply the brakes. This increased stopping distance can be dangerous if you are following another vehicle too closely, as you may not be able to stop in time to avoid a collision.

Keeping a safe distance between your vehicle and others on the road is just one of the many strategies you can use to stay safe while driving on icy roads.


6 - Drive Carefully But Also Consistently

When driving on icy roads, you should travel at a speed that is appropriate for the weather conditions as well as the traffic safely sign

Traveling at an appropriate speed can help create a reasonable and predictable flow of traffic which is important when the road is wet or icy.

Additionally, if at all possible, avoid making sudden lane changes or turns because they could potentially cause skidding and it may affect other drives around you.


7 - Certain Times Require More Attention

There are specific times when the roadways are the most slippery.rain and snow cartoon cloud

Rain: The road is most slippery when it first beings to rain. Obviously, each situation is unique but generally soon after rain has started falling it can be slippery. For example, rainwater lifts the oil that built up in the middle of the roadway (left by cars over time) and begins to drag that oil discharge all over the asphalt..

Snow: The dangers of driving after a snowfall may be slightly different depending on many factors. When it first snows, the roads and other conditions may impact visibility but also the roadways. Then, later one, once the snow begins to melt and refreeze and melt again, it can also create ice patches on the asphalt that can even be hidden and sometimes referred to as black ice.

Either avoid driving when roads are most slippery, or be sure you drive with extreme attention in these conditions if it is not possible to drive at a different time.


8 - Keep Your Winter Emergency Kit Ready

We have discussed what should be in a winter emergency kit in a previous article. We encourage you to read that article and it can potentially help you be prepared for a roadside emergency or difficult conditions.

In general, your emergency kit should include some of the following items:


  • Flashlight
  • Flares
  • Blankets
  • Warm clothing
  • Winter hat
  • Extra gloves
  • Materials for traction (sand or kitty litter)
  • Charged cell phone (to call 911)
  • Snow brush and ice scraper
  • Snacks
  • Vehicle manual


While it might sound obvious that you should have a winter preparedness kit in your car, you might not think to keep some of these items on hand. Also, be sure that your kit is always stocked. If you have to take out flares for some reason, replace them as soon as possible. The kit should remain stocked at all times. Unfortunately, it is difficult to predict if/when you may need it next. If you're riding a motorcycle, you may have to adjust this plan. Learn more about staying safe on your motorcycle in the winter. 



Remember that even if you are a skilled driver, driving on slippery roads can be dangerous. Avoiding unnecessary travel and staying home when the weather is bad is the best way to stay safe on icy roads. 

However, if you have to drive for a specific reason, then it’s important to be as safe as possible. Avoid distractions, create a safe environment, always check the car (P.O.W.E.R.), avoid cruise control, keep your distance, drive carefully & appropriately for the conditions, and have your winter kit up-to-date and ready. Surviving winter in Wisconsin is not for the faint of heart! Please be sure to keep your family safe during the cold winter months

Yes, it's always worth it to hire a car accident lawyer. It's also a good idea to contact a lawyer after a minor car accident.




Disclaimer: This post provides general information but is not legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

Steven Gruber car accident attorney
( Personal Injury Attorney )

Attorney Steven Gruber was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His family has deep roots in the Wisconsin legal community, as his father, David, founded Gruber Law Offices almost 40 years ago and his mother, Nancy, is a managing attorney with the firm. Steven is an award-winning attorney who focuses on serious injury cases and firm strategy and operations. Some of Steven’s awards and memberships include National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Lawyers, Top 10 Attorney in Wisconsin by the National Academy of Personal Injury Attorneys, The National Trial Lawyers Top 40 Under 40, and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, just to name a few. He has successfully handled cases regarding serious matters that have been publicized by the Today Show, Good Morning America, ABC, Fox and many other media outlets. At Gruber Law Offices, Steven also manages and leads a powerful team of 130 talented professionals. He is proud to continue the family legacy of positively impacting our community.