Driving in Winter Weather: 4 Tips

By: Kusuma Schofield

While winter doesn’t officially start until December 21, we’ve already seen snow and had our share of cold temperatures this season. Keeping a snow shovel at the ready might come in handy over what could be a long winter. Two years ago on March 21, a powerful nor’easter dropped heavy snow and caused whiteout conditions in Pennsylvania. It was the second day of spring…and the fourth nor’easter of the month. So buckle up!

Is your vehicle ready to handle everything that blows its way? Here’s a quick reminder on prepping for and dealing with a big storm, or if you have a road trip or long commute in your near future.  

1. The Hours Before 

We’ll assume you already have basic roadside emergency supplies in the trunk: jumper cables, a blanket, flashlight, tools, a scraper, flares or reflectors, extra motor oil and coolant, and a first aid kit. Throw in a portable shovel and some sand or salt. Make sure the gas tank is full—this helps prevent gas lines from freezing and keeps you going in a prolonged emergency. Got water? Batteries? For more ideas on things to include in your survival kit, visit redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/survival-kit-supplies.html

2. The Day of the Storm 

You hear this a lot: If you don’t have to go out, don’t go out! Why risk life, limb, and your nice car? Leave the roads open for plow crews. Stay home, turn up the heat, and make French toast. (You did buy bread, milk, and eggs, right?). If you must go out, take public transportation where possible. 

3. If You Must Drive…  

Sometimes life gets in the way and we need to be on the road, so please slow down, stay alert, and drive safely. Seatbelt on. If your cellphone rings, ignore it or pull over to answer it. Never pass a plow or salt truck. Don’t tailgate, no matter how big your SUV is—all vehicles need the same stopping distance on slick roads. Try to anticipate your stops well in advance so you can coast to a halt instead of using the brakes. This is not the day to use your cruise control, Speedy.  

4. You’re Stuck: Now What? 

Stay with your vehicle, unless you have a visual of a heated location that you can safely get to. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna and leave the overhead dome light on while the engine is running so you can be easily spotted. Last but not least, start the car every hour for 10 minutes with the heater on, while making sure the exhaust pipe is clear of snow so fumes do not get into the car. 

Safe travels!  

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