Winter Driving Tips

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During winter storms, the leading cause of deaths are transportation/automobile-related issues. And according to AAA, deaths related to winter storms and cold weather exceed those related to tornados, hurricanes or lightning.

During these winter months, it is important to take appropriate steps in driving, and to prepare for contingencies if you have a winter related issue while driving.

On this page, you can view the following information:

*Winter Driving Tips - Be Cautious | *What to do if You Get Stranded
*Preparing your Car for Winter Driving | *Winter Survival Kit for Your Car

Be Cautious About Travel

  • Listen for radio or television reports of travel advisories issued by the National Weather Service.
  • Avoid traveling on ice-covered roads if at all possible.
  • If you must travel, let someone know your destination and when you expect to arrive. Ask them to notify authorities if you are late.
  • Check and restock the winter emergency supplies in your car before you leave.
  • Never pour water on your windshield to remove ice or snow; shattering may occur.
  • Never rely on your car to provide sufficient heat; the car may break down.
  • Always dress warmly ยท Always carry clothing appropriate for winter conditions.

What to Do if You Get Stranded

Staying in your vehicle when stranded is often the safest choice if winter storms create poor visibility or if roadways are ice covered. These steps will increase your safety when stranded:

  • Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers.
  • Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.
  • Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing, blankets, or newspapers.
  • Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.
  • Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe -- this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
  • Do not eat un-melted snow because it will lower your body temperature.

Prepare your Car for Winter

You can avoid many dangerous winter travel problems by planning ahead. Have maintenance service on your vehicle as often as the manufacturer recommends. In addition, every fall:

  • Have the radiator system serviced, or check the antifreeze level yourself with an antifreeze tester.  Add antifreeze, as needed.
  • Replace windshield-wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
  • Replace any worn tires, and check the air pressure in the tires.
  • During winter, keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

Winter Survival Kit for your Car

Equip your car with these items:

  • Cell phone and charger
  • Blankets
  • First-aid kit
  • A can and waterproof matches (to melt snow for water)
  • Windshield scraper
  • Booster cables
  • Road maps
  • Compass
  • Tool kit
  • Paper towels
  • Bag of sand or cat litter (to pour on ice or snow for added traction)
  • Tire chains (in areas with heavy snow)
  • Collapsible shovel
  • High-calorie canned or dried foods and a can opener
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Canned compressed air with sealant (for emergency tire repair)
  • Brightly colored cloth to use as signal