Improve winter driving with a flurry of safety

When traveling during the winter, be prepared for the unexpected. Being stranded during a winter storm can be a matter of life or death. No matter the temperature, weather affects driving conditions and can pose serious problems. Follow these recommendations for safer winter travels.

Carry the necessary equipment:

  • Shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow and tire chains
  • Properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and a tripod-type jack.
  • Bag of salt, cat litter or sand
  • Tool kit
  • Ice scraper and snow brush
  • Working flashlight and extra batteries

If travel must happen during a storm, plan ahead:

  • Select both primary and alternate routes.
  • Travelers should inform others of their travel routes. If they do not arrive on time, officials know where to begin searching.
  • Check the latest weather information.
  • Travel with another person if possible.
  • Drive defensively
  • Watch for ice patches on bridges and overpasses.
  • Take note of the odometer and coordinate it with exit numbers, mileposts or crossroads. This will help travelers determine their location if rescuers need to be summoned.  
  • If a storm becomes too much to handle, seek refuge immediately.

If stranded:

  • Travelers should not leave their vehicle unless they know their location for certain, how far it is to possible help and that the situation will be improved by doing so.
  • To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the vehicle at a safe distance. Hang a brightly colored cloth from the antenna.
  • If the car’s exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour, depending on the amount of gas left.
  • To protect against frostbite and hypothermia, use woolen items and blankets to keep warm.
  • Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.

Published February 15, 2019.