14 Tips for Driving in Extreme Winter Conditions

Car in blizzard

Driving in wintry conditions can be dangerous. Sub-zero temperatures, falling snow, drifting snow, sleet, and ice contribute in different ways to the hazards of winter travel. Proper preparation and anticipation of the potential dangers of operating a motor vehicle in inclement weather can mean the difference between safety and harm.

Ensuring that your vehicle is in top working condition throughout the winter months will help keep you and your passengers safe while traveling in cold and snowy conditions.

The following items should be checked and properly maintained throughout the winter:

  • Antifreeze
  • Battery
  • Brakes
  • Defroster and heating system
  • Exhaust system
  • Fully inflated spare tire
  • Hoses and belts
  • Lights
  • Spark plugs
  • Tires – snow tires, pressure, tread
  • Wiper blades and windshield washer fluid

14 Tips for Driving in Cold and Snowy Weather

Keep the following tips in mind when heading out on the road during the winter weather conditions:

  1. Don’t Drive: The best way to keep safe during inclement weather is to stay off the roads. If it is absolutely necessary for you be driving in the worst conditions winter has to offer, make sure you are fully prepared, plan your route and let others know your plans, too.
  2. Warm It and Clean It: Your car will need to warm up before you drive away, especially if it’s been sitting out in the cold for any amount of time. Take that time to completely clean off any snow that has accumulated. Driving with ice or snow on any of your windows is dangerous for you and others on the road. Snow on the hood or roof can blow onto windows once the car is in motion, blocking your view. Make sure all windows, lights and exterior mirrors and sensors are free of snow and ice.
  3. Seat Belts: It’s both the law and common sense. The requirement to wear seat belts while driving and riding in cars has saved more lives than any other transportation regulation.
  4. Have a Plan: Don’t rely exclusively on your GPS to get you where you need to go. Know your route and have a backup plan in case inclement weather forces changes to your route. Always check traffic and road conditions before you head out.
  5. Don’t Go It Alone: There is safety in numbers, but if you must venture out in nasty, winter weather by yourself, let others know where you are going, what route you are taking, and when you expect to return.
  6. Weather Forecast: While sometimes incorrect, meteorologists and weather forecasters know more than you do about what’s to come, and can provide at least a guide of what changes in the temperature and precipitation are expected.
  7. Defensive Driving: Watch out for ice patches, snowdrifts, and other vehicles losing control. Increase your distance between cars, and ease the pressure on the pedals when accelerating and decelerating. Slow down and move over for stopped cars and emergency vehicles.
  8. Distracted Driving: It almost seems cliché to advise against using mobile technological devices while driving. Winter driving conditions compress necessary reaction time, making it even more dangerous to be glancing on your cell phone or tablet while your vehicle is in motion.
  9. Phone and Charger: While it is very dangerous to be using a mobile device while driving, especially in inclement weather, make sure you do have a fully charged phone in the car, with the ability to re-charge the device, if needed. Save phone battery life by using your mobile device only in the case of an emergency.
  10. It’s a Gas: During waves of extreme cold and snow, it is important not to let your gas level get too low. Keeping your gas tank at least half-full minimizes the formation of condensation and extends engine run time in case of emergency.
  11. No Cruise or Parking Brake: It is highly recommended to avoid using cruise control or activating the parking brake in extreme weather conditions.
  12. Make Room for the Plow: Snow plows perform a critical function when the white stuff starts falling from the sky. Stay well behind plows in service. Their motion and activity kick up snow and slush as they go, limiting visibility for anyone riding in the wake.
  13. Icy Situation: Intersections, bridges, and ramps are more prone to icy patches than the rest of the road. Heed warning signs and signals activated in winter conditions and proceed cautiously through, under, or over these areas.
  14. Emergency Survival Kit: Never go out into the winter weather without a fully stocked survival kit prepared for any emergency. 
    Essential items in a motor vehicle emergency survival kit should include:
    • ​​​Fully stocked first aid kit
    • Flairs and reflectors
    • Extra windshield washer fluid
    • Ice scraper, snow brush, shovel, and broom
    • Bag of salt or kitty litter for traction
    • Extra blankets, coats, hats, socks, and gloves
    • Non-perishable food
    • Tool kit
    • Flashlight and extra batteries

What to Do If You Are Stalled or Stranded

Even if you have done everything to properly anticipate and react to the challenges and potential hazards of driving in cold and snowy conditions, you can still find yourself stalled or stranded. In such cases, the first thing to do is to remain calm. Then, follow some basic guidelines to ensure you and any fellow travelers make it home safely.

  • Stay Put: The temptation is to leave your vehicle and go find help or shelter. Experts say this is a bad idea. Stay with your car and try not to exert yourself any more than necessary.
  • Draw Attention: Activate your hazard lights or flashers. Hang brightly colored strips of cloth or plastic on your car’s antenna or windows to let passersby know you are in distress. Leave the interior light on - but mind your battery power! - to draw the attention of a potential rescuer.
  • Avoid Asphyxiation: Do not leave your stranded vehicle running for long periods of time with the windows rolled up. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow or debris if you need to run the engine to stay warm or charge a device.
  • Eat, Drink, and Keep Warm: Eating and drinking from your emergency kit will help keep your strength and energy up, and fight against the potential hypothermia. And remember, it is far better to have too many blankets and coats than not enough when you absolutely need them.

Injured in a Winter Car Accident? Contact Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident because of the negligence of others, the experienced team of personal injury attorneys at Cooney & Conway can help you and your family get the compensation you deserve. Call toll free 800-322-5573 and speak to a knowledgeable representative, or simply fill out the Case Evaluation contact information form on this page and a qualified associate will respond shortly. 

If you simply want to learn more about when you should all an attorney in the case of an accident, learn more here