The coveted summer road trip is a longtime tradition, but its snowy counterpart can be a welcome respite from the dreary days of winter. Roads are less congested in winter and the tourist attractions aren’t as swamped, adding a couple more perks to a winter getaway. Travelers should be wary of the season’s harsh driving conditions, however. Whether you’re hitting the road for work or play, be prepared with these winter driving safety tips:
1. Get a Vehicle Check
Be sure you and your vehicle are ready. You may think general vehicle maintenance is enough to take off on a safe winter escape, but icy conditions require more car care than a regular oil change. Before you leave, ask your mechanic to check your vehicle’s brakes, lights, oil, tires, exhaust system, heater and defroster, and be sure to test your vehicle’s battery life.
2. Add Roadside Assistance
If you don’t already have roadside assistance as part of your vehicle insurance, consider adding it. It’s usually just a small extra monthly fee, and it will come to the rescue if you get a flat tire, stranded in snow, stuck in a ditch or if you run out of gas or your car just won’t start. And if you’re renting a car for your winter adventure, you can add rental car insurance with roadside assistance.
3. Pack Accordingly
Pack an emergency kit and keep it in your trunk. If you get stuck in a snow storm, you’ll need:
- Personal-care items. Include blankets, snacks, bottled water, gloves, boots and a first-aid kit.
- Emergency care and safety tools. Equip your vehicle with a cell phone charger, flashlight, batteries, tire chains, ice scraper, jumper cables, road flare, shovel, sand, a small tool kit and sand, salt or kitty litter. These things will give you the best chance to get out of a troublesome situation and back on the road.
4. What to Do in a Worst Case Scenario
If a snow storm hits and you do get stuck, follow the steps below to try to safely get back on track.
- Stay calm and assess the situation before taking any action.
- Check the tailpipe before you start your engine; if there’s snow covering it, clear it. This is to prevent deadly gases from building up inside the car.
- Clear snow from around the tires with the appropriate safety tools like a shovel or ice pick.
- Sprinkle salt in front of the tires to the melt ice that forms when the wheels spin (causing your vehicle to be stuck).
- Sand or cat litter will provide traction for tires.
- Run your engine for 10 to 15 minutes every hour to keep the car sufficiently warm and to melt some of the ice and snow.
- Floor the gas or accelerate in high gear; this will bury the tires deeper.
- Leave the wheels turned. It’s easier to maneuver the vehicle when the tires are straight.
- Walk away from your vehicle. If you do, you may get disoriented and lose your way back.
If you’ve tried all options or if a snow storm hits too hard to even attempt to exit its time to call for backup. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may call your insurance provider for a tow (that’s the above-mentioned roadside assistance) or 911 for emergency situations.