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Winter Driving Tips

Winter driving can be very dangerous at times due to poor road conditions and reduced visibility caused by heavy and blowing snow. Many winter deaths and injuries happen because people become stranded and move away from their car or truck. If you become stranded, you should stay inside your vehicle and wait for help.

Before You Leave the House

Woman driving in winter on snow covered slippery road in forest

  • Listen to the weather forecast before you begin to travel and postpone your trip if bad weather is occurring or expected
  • Try not to travel alone
  • Inform others of your schedule and planned routes
  • Keep your gas tank near full
  • Slow down and allow more space between your car and those around you and in front of you
  • Keep a Winter Survival Kit in your vehicle at all times


Items That Should be in Your Survival Kit

  • Shovel and flashlight with extra batteries
  • First aid kit and medications
  • Food that will not spoil such as granola bars and peanuts
  • Candles and matches
  • Extra clothing, sleeping bags, or blankets
  • Jumper cables and tire chains
  • Battery-operated radio
  • Cell phone with fully charged batteries
  • Windshield scraper and brush
  • Brightly colored cloth to tie on the antenna so the vehicle can be easily located

What To Do if You’re Stranded in Your Car

warning triangle with winter car breakdown in background

  • Stay with your vehicle.
  • Use your cell phone to call 911.
  • Be aware of your location and situation.
  • Move all your emergency supplies from the vehicle’s trunk to the interior of the car as soon as you know that you may be staying for a while.
  • Check your supplies to see what you have available and plan how you will use them. This will help you ration them in case you are stranded for a long period of time.
  • Run the engine sparingly. Start with 15 minutes every hour and adjust if needed. While running the engine, keep a downwind window cracked to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
  • If the cold is extreme, it may be necessary to keep the engine running continuously. It may not restart if shut off.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow.
  • Never go to sleep with the engine running.
  • Turn on the dome light at night while the engine is running. It may help others to locate you. Turn it off when you turn off the engine so you don’t run down the car’s battery.
  • Put on warm clothing right away, before you start to get cold. It is easier to stay warm than it is to regain lost warmth. Loosen tight clothing so body heat can circulate.
  • Remove metal jewelry because it can make you colder.
  • Keep your feet off the floor if the heater is not on.
  • Use newspapers, maps, or even the removable car mats for added insulation.
  • Do mild exercises to help you stay warm.
  • Watch for signs of frostbite or hypothermia.
  • Eat a snack of high calorie food just before sleeping to stimulate your metabolism (heat production).
  • If you fall asleep and wake up due to the cold, eat some more high energy food and add another layer of insulation such as more clothing or a blanket.
  • Tie a colorful banner on the car antenna. If you need to leave the car for any distance during the storm, tie a nylon rope to the car and yourself so you will be able to find your way back to the car.