Safe Driving Tips in Freezing Rain

This past winter I experienced freezing rain conditions on two different trips going over Stevens Pass in Washington state. The first trip was at night. Whenever there was oncoming traffic and there was any build up on ice on the windshield, it caused the light to refract and made it extremely difficult to see. A second trip during the day I experienced much heavier freezing rain in colder conditions. Rather than dots of ice forming on the windshield on my night trip, this time was a sheet of ice forming. I had to pull over a few times to scrape our windshield.

Driving in freezing rain can be an intimidating and treacherous experience, particularly when visibility is significantly reduced due to the buildup of ice on the windshield. In these conditions, drivers must exercise extreme caution and take necessary precautions to ensure their safety and the safety of other motorists on the road. In this article, we will provide some tips on how to drive in freezing rain when your windshield begins to build up with ice and visibility becomes substantially worse, particularly at night.

What is freezing rain?

Freezing rain is a type of precipitation that occurs when raindrops fall through a layer of cold air near the ground and freeze upon impact with surfaces that are at or below freezing temperature.Freezing rain typically forms when warm, moist air rises and condenses into clouds, then falls back to the ground as rain. As the raindrops fall through the cold layer of air near the ground, they freeze upon contact with surfaces that are at or below freezing temperature. Unlike sleet, which is also a type of frozen precipitation, freezing rain forms as liquid raindrops that freeze upon contact with surfaces, whereas sleet forms as ice pellets that fall from the clouds.

  1. Ensure Your Windshield is Clear

Before getting on the road, it is important to make sure that your windshield is clear of any ice, snow, or debris. Using a scraper, clear the ice from your windshield and side mirrors, and make sure that your windshield wipers are in good working condition. If your windshield wipers are old and worn out, it is essential to replace them before driving in freezing rain.

  1. Make Sure Your Windshield Wiper Fluid is Topped Off

Windshield wiper fluid can help melt the accumulation of ice, this is what allowed me to keep driving during that trip at night. The second time was nearly useless. I was quite low on fluid by the time I got back home. During winter conditions, it’s a good idea to carry and extra bottle of wiper fluid with you. I’ve been using an all-season from Windshield Wiper Fluid from RainX.

  1. Turn On Your Headlights

When driving in freezing rain, visibility is substantially reduced. Turning on your headlights can help you see the road ahead and help other motorists see you. In addition, turning on your headlights activates your taillights, making it easier for other drivers to see you from behind.

  1. Slow Down and Increase Your Following Distance

In freezing rain, the road surface can become very slippery, and your car’s stopping distance can be significantly increased. Therefore, it is crucial to slow down and increase your following distance to allow for more reaction time. A good rule of thumb is to double your normal following distance in icy conditions.

  1. Use Your Brakes Carefully

Braking is one of the most critical functions of a car, particularly in slippery conditions. In freezing rain, it is essential to use your brakes carefully and avoid sudden stops or hard braking. Instead, brake gently and use your gears to slow down if necessary.

  1. Use Your Defroster and Heater

In freezing rain, your windshield can quickly become covered in ice, reducing your visibility. Therefore, it is important to use your defroster and heater to keep your windshield clear. Set your defroster to high and turn up the heat to keep the inside of your car warm and prevent condensation from forming on the inside of your windshield.

  1. Avoid Sudden Movements

In freezing rain, sudden movements can cause your car to lose traction and spin out of control. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid sudden movements such as hard braking, sudden acceleration, or sharp turns. Instead, maintain a steady speed and use gentle movements to steer your car.

  1. Keep a Close Eye on Other Drivers

In icy conditions, it is not just your driving that affects your safety but also the actions of other drivers on the road. Therefore, it is important to keep a close eye on other drivers and anticipate their movements. Be prepared to slow down or stop if necessary to avoid an accident.

  1. Stay Alert and Focused

Driving in freezing rain requires a high level of concentration and focus. Therefore, it is essential to stay alert and focused on the road ahead. Avoid distractions such as using your phone, eating, or drinking while driving, and keep both hands on the wheel at all times.

  1. Know When to Stop

Driving in freezing rain can be very dangerous, particularly when visibility is significantly reduced. Therefore, it is important to know when to stop and wait for the conditions to improve. If visibility becomes too low, or the road surface becomes too slippery, it is better to pull over and wait for the weather to improve.

  1. Be Prepared for Emergencies

Finally, it is essential to be prepared for emergencies when driving in freezing rain. Keep an emergency kit in your car that includes items such as a flashlight, blanket, extra warm clothing, and a first aid kit. In addition, make sure that your phone is fully charged and that you have a car charger in case you need to call for help or use your phone for navigation.


In conclusion, driving in freezing rain can be a daunting and challenging experience, particularly when visibility is low, and the road surface is slippery. However, by taking the necessary precautions, drivers can ensure their safety and the safety of other motorists on the road. Remember to clear your windshield, turn on your headlights, slow down, use your brakes carefully, and stay alert and focused on the road ahead. If the conditions become too dangerous, do not hesitate to pull over and wait for the weather to improve. By following these tips, drivers can stay safe and avoid accidents when driving in freezing rain.