Winter Driving Safety Tips

The Red Cross offers these tips about how to drive safely during a winter storm or what to do if you become stuck in your vehicle
winter driving safety tips
As we navigate our way towards our destination, we need to remember to adjust our driving techniques to match the weather.|Photo by McBeth via Flickr

With winter comes some of the worst driving conditions. The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if you don’t have to.

During winter storms the roads become slick from snow, sleet, freezing rain, and the dreaded black ice. High winds combined with snowfall can eliminate road visibility and make for deadly driving conditions. The National Weather Service refers to winter storms as the “Deceptive Killers” because most deaths are indirectly related to the storm. Instead, people die in traffic accidents on icy roads and of hypothermia from prolonged exposure to cold.

While staying off the road is the best winter driving safety tip, we know that there are times when driving is necessary. The Red Cross offers these tips about how to drive safely during a winter storm or what to do if you become stuck in your vehicle:

  • Make sure your vehicle is ready for winter with a window scraper, kitty litter or sand in case you get stuck, extra clothes and a Disaster Supplies Kit in your trunk. Pack high-protein snacks, water, first aid kit, flashlight, small battery-operated radio, an emergency contact card with names and phone numbers, extra prescription medications, blankets and important documents or information you may need.
  • Fill the vehicle’s gas tank and clean the lights and windows to help you see.
  • Find out what disasters may occur where you are traveling and pay attention to the weather forecast. Before you leave, let someone know where you are going, the route you plan to take, and when you expect to get there. If your car gets stuck, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • If you can, avoid driving in sleet, freezing rain, snow or dense fog. If you have to drive, make sure everyone has their seat belts on and give your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions such as cell phones.
  • Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Sudden stops are difficult on snowy roadways.
  • Don’t use cruise control when driving in winter weather.
  • Don’t pass snow plows.
  • Know that ramps, bridges and overpasses will freeze before roadways.
  • Don’t run your engine and heater constantly to help avoid running out of gas. Don’t use things like lights or the radio without the engine running so the battery doesn’t conk out.
  • If you can, move your vehicle off the roadway. Stay with it – don’t abandon it. If you have to get out of your vehicle, use the side away from traffic.

For more winter driving safety tips and disaster preparedness information and latest updates, visit redcross.org.