Driving your car in the winter can pose some unique dangers due to extreme weather conditions like snow and ice. As a result, it's a good idea to be aware of winter weather conditions and how you should prepare for them. Learning about driving in the winter can help you be a better, safer driver on the road. Alongside awareness, it's also crucial to have a winter emergency kit in your car so you're prepared when an emergency strikes. 

We've put together this helpful guide on everything you need to know about winter car emergencies so you can stay safe and prepared.

Being Careful During Hazardous Winter Weather

Often, winter weather can make travel difficult and unsafe. If possible, limit your driving to only when necessary, staying at home if you can. When driving, remain aware of current conditions, drive slowly and carefully and be ready for these unique winter weather challenges:

  • Heavy snowfall: A classic scene in winter, heavy snow makes driving more difficult. Whether there's just been a snow storm or you're driving in rapidly falling snow, drive more carefully and watch for patches of deeper snow or slippery spots. 
  • Blizzards: The most extreme of all winter snowstorms are blizzards, which generally have heavy snowfall combined with high winds and freezing temperatures, resulting in blowing, drifting snow. You should only drive if absolutely necessary and proceed with caution. Driving conditions and visibility are usually quite poor.
  • Freezing rain: Freezing rain can quickly coat everything in a layer of ice, making roads very slippery and causing other damage. Beware of slippery roads and downed trees or power lines.
  • Black ice: With black ice, the road may look fine, but it's actually coated in a thin layer of ice. This sneaky hazard is common in shaded areas or under bridges or overpasses.
  • Winds: Strong winds in the winter can blow snow around, reducing visibility, creating drifts and increasing the wind chill factor.
  • Slush: Wet, icy slush can make winter driving challenging, building up as ice in the car's wheel wells and making it more difficult to steer properly. Additionally, passing vehicles may suddenly splash slush up onto your windshield, reducing visibility.
  • Cold snaps: Rapidly falling temperatures create a "cold snap" that leads to icy conditions and dangerously low temperatures.



Preparing an Emergency Kit

Car emergencies can happen at any time — and in the winter, they may be even more dangerous. Creating an emergency car kit and having these extra supplies on hand at all times will help improve your situation dramatically, ensuring you always have what you need. These kits can also help fellow drivers if you spot someone who needs assistance.

Find a box, plastic tote or duffle bag, gather up some supplies and keep your kit in your car so it's always ready when you need it. If possible, keep your kit in the backseat or other place inside the cab, as certain accidents may damage or limit access to the trunk. Check out this car emergency kit list for ideas of what to pack to always be prepared:

  • Blanket: A blanket can help you stay warm if you're stranded. 
  • First aid kit: Have a basic first aid kit in the car to tend to any minor injuries from accidents or other emergencies.
  • Seatbelt cutter: If you become trapped in your seat in an emergency, a seatbelt cutter is a great tool to have on hand.
  • Snow removal tools: You should always have a snow brush and ice scraper in the car to brush away snow and ice. Always clear snow and ice from your car before driving. A small shovel is also helpful if you become stuck in the snow.
  • Food and water: If you're stranded, even for a short time, food and water can be beneficial to have. Pack a few bottles of water and some non-perishable snacks like crackers and granola bars. Replace these supplies every six months to keep fresh.
  • Candle: Add a candle and matches you can use to create light. It helps to place the candle in an empty coffee can to keep it going even if it's windy.

Beyond these winter car essentials, you may also want to consider these additional emergency supplies for your winter car emergency list:

  • Maps
  • Flashlight
  • Jumper cables 
  • Tire chains
  • Flares
  • Multi-tool
  • Whistle
  • Tow rope
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Sand or road salt
  • Antifreeze and washer fluid
  • Extra batteries

Staying Calm During Winter Emergencies

When any kind of winter emergency strikes, it's essential to try to stay calm. With a little preparedness and knowledge, you can stay safe and get through all sorts of emergency situations. Follow these additional tips to help you in preparing for a winter car emergency:

  • Keep your car in good working order: Be sure to have all the basics checked before winter sets in, and don't take your car out in a winter storm if you know something is wrong with it. Keep up with regular maintenance, get repairs taken care of and always travel with a full gas tank.
  • Wear appropriate winter gear: It may be tempting not to bundle up if your car is warm and it's a short trip. However, if you get stranded or end up needing to walk, you'll be happy to have winter boots and a warm coat. You may want to keep additional gear in the car like hats, gloves and scarves.
  • Drive safely: Go slowly if you need to and stay aware of hazards, increase your following distance between cars and avoid cruise control in winter weather. 

If you get stranded in the snow, you can follow several steps to get help. First, turn on your hazard lights and call for help. It may be tempting to try to dig your car out of the snow, but you should avoid doing so if it's extremely cold. While you wait, remain in your car so you stay dry, and turn off your engine to avoid potential carbon monoxide dangers. If you have to wait for several hours, move your limbs around to keep circulation going and turn on your car periodically for warmth.



Travel Resources From AAA Central Penn

Even with the best precautions and most careful driving, emergencies still happen. Luckily, AAA Central Penn is here to help. No matter what time of year it is, our popular roadside service can help you out with many different types of car emergencies. Browse our blog for more helpful resources today, and contact us to become a member and experience all the benefits of AAA.


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How to Prepare for a Car Emergency in the Winter
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