Driving in the Colorado snow: How to stay safe during a slushy commute

Posted at 5:35 PM, Oct 08, 2017

DENVER – The first snowstorm of the season is finally here, but it’s not just snow this storm will bring.

Drivers around Colorado, including the Denver metro area, will wake up to slushy roads and treacherous driving conditions, so it’s important to be prepared and get ready for the winter to come.

If there is absolutely no need for you to get out of your home during a snowstorm, it’s best to remain inside but if you must leave, Denver7 suggests following these tips to keep you safe on the roads.

1. Clear off snow and ice

Make sure to thoroughly scrape all windows and brush snow off your entire car, including the roof. It’s not just a courtesy for drivers who may be behind you during your commute – it’s the law in some states. You don’t want to be responsible for causing a crash due to chunks of snow falling from your car.

2. Accelerate slowly

Roads can be tricky and you may be over-confident when taking the wheel in snowy conditions, which is why you should really be cautious when exiting your driveway (black ice, anyone?). Some cars have traction control or a winter mode that helps. If you have an automatic transmission that allows second-gear starts, select that gear for better traction.

3. Go smooth and easy

Seriously, there is no need to drive like a madman on the roads, especially in slushy conditions. Reduce your speed to lessen the chance of a skid. Also, avoid any sudden inputs to the steering, throttle or brakes. Use lower gears when decelerating, to allow the engine to slow the car. Image yourself driving with a hot cup of coffee in your lap – this should give you a general idea of how you should be driving during a snowstorm.

4. Give yourself some space

When driving in normal conditions, you should usually give yourself between 3 to 5 seconds of stopping distance between your car and the one in front of you. In slick roads, double that amount and adjust that number depending on how bad conditions get outside.

5. Don’t pump the brakes

Let your car’s antilock brakes do the work for you, unless you’re driving a really old car that doesn't have antilock brakes. Check your owner’s manual to check if your car has these types of brakes.

6. Don’t put all your trust in all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive vehicles

While these types of vehicles provide extra traction while accelerating, they can’t be of much help when stopping and turning. Use your winter tires instead.

7. Lift your feet off the accelerator when driving under bridges, overpasses

While plows will have passed through these areas, it’s best to be extra careful when driving under a bridge or an overpass – there may be ice, snow or both, causing you to spin out and lose control, potentially creating a crash.


PLEASE DON’T TEXT, SNAP, TALK OR DO ANYTHING ELSE WHILE DRIVING IN SNOWY CONDITIONS. If you must follow any advice in this list, follow this one.

Editor's note: We'd like to thank the people over at Consumer Reports for providing these tips. 

TRAFFIC: Keep up-to-date with the latest conditions 

RADAR: Track the storm with Denver7's LIVE RADAR

WEATHER: Stay up-to-date with the latest Colorado forecast

ROUND-UP: Everything you need to know ahead of Monday's storm