Severe weather can be both frightening and dangerous for travelers. Winter storms, bad weather and sloppy road conditions are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Drivers should know the safety rules for dealing with winter road emergencies. AAA urges drivers to be cautious while driving in adverse weather.
AAA recommends the following tips while driving in snowy and icy conditions:
- Keep a bundle of cold-weather gear in your car, such as extra food and water, warm clothing, a flashlight, a glass scraper, blankets, medications, and more.
- Make certain your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread.
- Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.
- Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
- Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface, such as on ice and snow.
- Stay home. Only go out if necessary. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out.
- Drive slowly. Always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry and take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
- Increase your following distance to five to six seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
- Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads will just make your wheels spin. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
- Be Prepared: Have your vehicle checked by a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility before hitting the road.
- Check the Weather: Check the weather along your route and when possible, delay your trip if bad weather is expected.
- Stay Connected: Before hitting the road, notify others and let them know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
- If you get stuck in the snow:
- Stay with your vehicle: Your vehicle provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Do not try to walk in a severe storm. It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
- Don’t over exert yourself: When digging out your vehicle, listen to your body and stop if you become tired.
- Be Visible: Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna of your vehicle or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
- Clear the Exhaust Pipe: Make sure the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust pipe can cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment of the vehicle while the engine is running.
- Stay Warm: Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps. Pre-pack blankets and heavy clothing to use in case of an emergency.
- Conserve Fuel: If possible, only run the engine and heater long enough to remove the chill. This will help to conserve fuel.
AAA advises drivers to follow guidance from local authorities during winter weather events and, when possible, stay home even after the storm passes. Keeping the roads clear of unnecessary traffic will help first responders, including roadside technicians and tow providers, do their job safely and efficiently. If you must be on the roads, AAA recommends:
- Be prepared by having your vehicle inspected by a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility before hitting the road to ensure everything is in good working order.
- Check the weather at your starting point, along your route, and at your destination. If bad weather is expected at any point, if possible, delay your trip until conditions improve.
- Stay connected by notifying your friends and family of your route, destination, and estimated time of arrival.
- Slow Down, Move Over when you see first responders, roadside technicians, tow providers, or stranded drivers along the side of the road. Winter conditions make the road more dangerous than usual, and staying alert keeps everyone safe.
If you are stranded while traveling in winter weather, AAA recommends:
- Stay with your vehicle since it provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.
- Do not try to walk in a severe storm since it is easy to lose sight of your vehicle and get lost in blowing snow. Also, passing vehicles may not be able to see you.
- Don’t overexert yourself trying to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow.
- Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled-up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice, or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the vehicle when the engine is running.
- Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. If you don’t have an emergency kit with extra coats and blankets, you may use floor mats or other similar items. The point is to stay warm.
- If possible, run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and conserve gasoline.
AAA strongly recommends drivers keep a well-stocked emergency kit in their vehicle. But this is especially important in the winter. A well-stocked emergency kit should include the following:
- Cell phone car chargers
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Reflective or warning triangles (put outside of the vehicle to signal a breakdown)
- First-aid kit
- Drinking water and non-perishable food for travelers and pets
- Traction aids (sand, salt, non-clumping cat litter, or traction mats)
- Ice scraper or snow brush and shovel
- Gloves, extra coats or sweatshirts, hats, and blankets
AAA Response to Roadside Calls
During big winter storms, AAA will see an increase in calls for roadside assistance. Especially in those areas where the weather will be the most severe. Increased call volume combined with hazardous conditions will cause a delay in response time – especially if an area is inaccessible. When it is possible for roadside technicians and tow providers to go out, the safety of our members is AAA’s greatest concern, and priority is given to those stranded in the most dangerous conditions.