Winter Driving Safety Tips

Winter driving on a snowy road

Winter driving safety tips save lives when put into practice. When the weather brings ice, snow, extreme cold, wind or all of the above, winter driving has many safety risks. If you are among the 70% of Americans that live in snowy regions, then prepare yourself by reviewing some winter driving safety tips today.

Tip 1: Maintain Your Vehicle

Staying safe on the road during winter weather begins before you even start your car. Maintain your vehicle and check the heater, tires, brakes and fluids before cold weather arrives to make sure your vehicle starts the season in good shape. Have an A.S.E. certified technician run a full inspection on your vehicle to help prevent inconvenient and risky breakdowns. Test your wipers to make sure they clear windshields all the way, and use cold-weather windshield washer fluid.

Tip 2: Keep Gas Tank and Tires Full

AAA recommends keeping the fuel tank at least half full at all times during the winter season and making sure you keep tires properly inflated. Most newer vehicles have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System, but you should still keep a tire pressure gauge in your glove box and regularly check the pressure yourself. Because tire pressure monitoring systems sometimes malfunction in cold weather, checking the pressure yourself can prevent hazardous, time-consuming and costly tire damage.

Tip 3: Take It Slow on Ice or Snow

The best way to stay safe during snow and ice events is to stay home. However, if you must leave home for work or emergencies, adjust your driving to compensate for slick roadways. Do not use cruise control on snow, ice or water covered roads. Accelerate and brake slowly, and significantly reduce your speed. Following distances should be increased to at least five to six seconds. Clear all ice and snow off your car before driving. Leaving snow and ice on your vehicle can cause visibility disturbances for you and other drivers. When going up hills, do not stop and do not over-accelerate.

Tip 4: Know How to Get Unstuck

Anyone who lives in areas with snow and ice will likely have a vehicle stuck in the snow at some point. For instance, your car could get stuck in a parking space due to significant snow or blocked in by plowed debris.  If you get stuck, carefully shovel all obstructing snow away from your vehicle. Then, sprinkle salt, sand or cat litter near the tires before attempting to slowly pull out of the space. Make sure that your exhaust pipe is cleared off and cleaned out before starting your vehicle.

Tip 5: Prepare for Off-Road Emergencies

Store extra hats, gloves, a safety vest, snow brushes, ice scrapers, flashlights, an emergency supply of medications, blankets, a shovel and snacks in your vehicle for easy access in case of an emergency.

If your vehicle slides off the road and becomes stuck in snow, you can try to dislodge the vehicle on your own, but this requires extreme caution. Follow these steps:

  • Stay alert and watch for approaching vehicles while working.
  • Wear your safety vest or bright-colored clothing so that other drivers can see you.
  • Clear the area around the vehicle by shoveling small amounts of snow, taking breaks as needed. Lifting heavy shovel-fulls may initially save time, but it can increase muscular and cardiac health risks.
  • Always stay near your vehicle, and save fuel by only running the engine/heater enough to keep you from getting dangerously cold.
  • Clear the area around your vehicle’s exhaust pipe before running the engine.
  • If you are unable to free your vehicle, call a towing company. 

Everyone who drives in icy, snowy, or dangerously cold conditions will benefit from following these simple winter driving safety tips. Prepare yourself and your vehicle to arrive safely this year.

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