Do not lose your mind. It is not the apocalypse. The world is still running, physics has not been canceled out. It is not acid rain. It will not dissolve your body if it touches you. It is frozen water. You can drive in it, you can walk in it, you can stand in it long enough to help a fellow motorist get out of your way. It’s just snow.
(Note that these are not tips for how to prepare your car for the snow. There will be no advice on, how to put snow tires or chains on your car, or what to look for in an AWD vehicle. These are tips for people who have somewhere to go, like home, and have only the car they’ve already got, with the tires it has already got on it, to get them there.)
Accelerate more gradually than usual. Don’t stomp on the gas pedal when the light turns green. Creep up to speed casually. This will help prevent your tires from slipping and spinning in the snow.
Drive at a reasonable speed. Of course. You’re always supposed to do that. But, like, during a snowstorm, actually do it.
Give the other cars enough space. You ignore this rule on sunny days, because you’re late and you treat the road like it’s Mario Kart, but I promise you that you will get wherever you’re going on time. Hang back. Give the car in front of you a full 10 seconds of space—meaning that it should pass signs and landmarks and stuff a full eight seconds before you do.
Don’t jump from lane to lane. Don’t do any more turning than you absolutely have to; if you’re going so much faster than the other cars on the road that you have to be ducking and dodging between lanes to get around them, you are going too fast, and are going to wind up wearing your steering wheel as a necklace.
Decelerate more gradually than usual, too. Don’t wait until the last second to brake for stops and turns, or you might slide right through one of them and pitch your car into a guardrail/the back of the car in front of you/a curb/a cemetery. Anticipate the stops and turns before you get to them and slow down gradually. This way, if you press the brake pedal and nothing happens because your car is sliding, you’ve got plenty of time and space to react and avoid crashing into a bus full of nuns.
Avoid stopping where possible. If you start gradually slowing down way before you get to a stoplight, there’s a decent chance it’ll turn green before you get there, and then you can just keep going without ever having had to stop. Same with a line of stopped cars in front of you: Start braking, like, a few football fields back, and they might be on their way before there’s ever any chance of you plowing into the back of them and ruining everyone’s day.
Don’t brake and make a sharp turn at the same time if you can avoid it. Many of the wrecked and/or spun-out cars you drive past during snowstorms are people who tried to brake and turn, they had too much momentum carrying them forward and not enough traction, and they just slid right out of the turn and into whatever’s on the far side of the road. See the turn coming and slow down in preparation for it, so that by the time you get there, you can take your foot off the brake, turn the wheel, and coast slowly around the bend.
Be smart on hills. Hills suck when the road is slippery. Give the cars in front of you a lot of space, so that there’s no chance you’ll have to stop on your way up the hill; build up a little speed before you get to the incline, and then just cruise up the hill without accelerating. If you try to accelerate on the way up the hill, you’re increasing the chances of your tires spinning and slipping. Just cruise on up to the top; you’ll slow down on the way, which is good, because this’ll help you stay under control on the way back down.
If you start to slide or spin, don’t panic. Yeah, yeah, easier said than done, sure. But, stay calm. Don’t start cranking the steering wheel all over the place and stomping your feet on the gas and brake pedals like a lunatic. Try to be calm and since you were following the other tips: going slow, giving space to other cars, decelerating long before turns and stops, you should have space and time to work with, and the situation’s almost certainly not as dire as it seems, unless you’re driving on a cliff without any guardrails around you.
Moving smoothly and deliberately the entire time, look in the direction you want to go, rather than at what you’re sliding toward, and turn the steering wheel in that direction, exactly the way you would if you were on a dry road and trying to turn in that direction. So, if you’re on a straight road, and the car’s, say, spinning clockwise, look and steer back toward the direction you were going; if you’re trying to go around a turn, but the car isn’t turning, look and steer in the direction of the turn. Take your foot off the brake—I know!—to give the tires a chance to grab some traction (if you’re in a front-wheel-drive car, you can even tap the accelerator a couple times to help them along; it seems counterintuitive and might take some practice, but it works!). You’ll probably recover pretty quickly, since you were going slowly and probably weren’t all that far out of control to begin with.
Then, resume driving, but more slowly. Pull into the next convenience-store parking lot you come across, to stop the car and shake uncontrollably for five minutes until the adrenaline wears off.
If you come across a car that has spun out or slid off the road or that can’t get up an incline, be a dear and go help.
Remember to charge your phone before you get in the car, so that you can call someone to come rescue you after you ignore all the above suggestions, get distracted listening to NPR and pinwheel your car into a bus full of nuns.