Driving in rough winter weather can be a challenge, a few steps can help keep you safe.
Make Sure Your Car is Winter Ready
- Keep your gas tank full, as a full tank will keep the fuel lines from freezing and prepare you in case of power outages or evacuation.1
- Take your car to a mechanic and ask for a winter check, asking them to check antifreeze, battery and ignition system, brakes, heater and defroster, windshield wiper equipment and washer fluid level, among others.
- As the outside temperature drops, so does tire inflation pressure. Make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended inflation.2
- Inspect your tires for damage that may require replacement. If you are unsure, take your vehicle to a tire professional.
- If you are using snow tires, have them installed in the fall before any snow falls.
General Rules for Driving in Winter
- Do not drive during ice or snow storms unless it is absolutely necessary.3
- Plan to stay off the road when authorities issue advisories, watches, and warnings.4
- If you must drive, first clear the ice and snow from your vehicle, including the headlights taillights, windshield wipers, all the windows and the tailpipe. License plates should be visible.5
- Allow your defrosters time to work before driving.
- Turn on your headlights when you turn on your windshield wipers.
- Slippery spots may remain after snow is removed.
- Let someone know your destination, route, and expected arrival time.6
- Check the weather, road conditions, and traffic before leaving.
Driving on Ice
- Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses, which typically freeze first and melt last. Even if the roadway leading up to a bridge appears to be fine, use caution as the bridge itself could be covered in a sheet of ice.7
- Be aware of black ice, which blends in with its surroundings. Pavement with black ice will be slightly darker and duller than the rest of the road surface.8
- Never use cruise control during winter driving.9
- Drive, turn and brake slowly, adjusting speed to road conditions and leaving plenty of stopping room.
- Avoid unnecessarily changing lanes.
- Watch for brake lights, emergency flashers, fishtailing or cars that are sideways
- Be careful braking on ice. Try to brake in advance and control the skid by easing off the accelerator and steering in the direction you want the car to go.
- If you have antilock brakes, do not pump the pedal.
- For drivers without antilock brakes, keep your heel on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure.
- Get a feel for how your car handles on snow and ice.
Difficulties On the Road
- If you are stranded in your car on a highway, remain in your vehicle until help arrives.10
- If you are stranded on a remote road, use items around you to get attention for help.
- Don’t overexert yourself.11
- Put bright markers on your car or window and keep the interior dome light on.12
- If it becomes hard to control the car, pull over, stop the car and set the parking brake.
- Don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space, as this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.13
- Clear the exhaust pipe of snow and ice, running it only sporadically to stay warm.
Emergency Supplies for Your Car
- Snow shovel, broom and ice scraper14
- Jumper cables
- Flares or a reflective triangle and a flashlight
- Car cell phone charger
- Cat litter or sand for tire traction
- Water, food and needed medications (for longer trips or when driving in lightly populated areas)15
1, 14. Ready.gov
2, 6, 11, 15. NHTSA
3, 5. New York DMV.
4, 10, 12. FEMA
7, 9. Cars.com.
13. NHTSA (Emergency Driving)