Travel Safety Tips for Winter Road Trips

When I moved to Colorado 15 years ago, I had NO idea how to drive in winter weather; even the short 10-minute road trip into the office was a nightmare. My little rear-wheel drive, Ford Escort taught me a lot, like I needed a four-wheel drive with some weight. That first winter living in the Rockies included monthly trips to the store to stock my trunk with Kitty Litter. Not to mention more white knuckle drives into the office, spin-outs and being stuck than I’d like to remember. It was during this time that I also learned how to take the light rail…

are you ready for your winter road trip? click through for tips for get you there - safelyI have since learned a lot about driving in winter weather and what it means to be prepared for road trips, even one that is a short two-hour drive up to the ski slopes from Denver. It’s a drive that can turn treacherous in an instant during the winter – snow, ice, poor visibility, and extreme cold can disable your vehicle or make roads impassable. Even on these “short road trips”, we’ve found ourselves stranded for several hours. Having the necessary tools and resources can get you back on the road safely and perhaps even save your life.

State Farm recently contacted me and asked that I share some of winter road trip tips to help you guys not only be prepared but safe on your next road trip. I have to admit, it was perfect timing – and a refresher – for me as we gear up for our ski season drives. Let’s just hope this year, we avoid the flat tires…again.
road trip safety tips

Prepare Your Vehicle for Winter

The best time to get ready for winter is before the first storm of the season. Some items to check include:

  • Hoses and fan belts
  • Spark plugs
  • Antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid levels
  • Battery strength
  • Tire pressure and tread life
  • Air, fuel, and emission filters
  •  Spare tire and jack

Follow Winter Driving Recommendations

Winter driving has its own set of challenges, from the moment you start up your vehicle. Here are some useful winter driving suggestions:

  • Never warm up your vehicle in a closed garage.
  •  Keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent gas line freeze-up.
  •  Make sure your exhaust pipe is not clogged with mud or snow.
  •  Don’t use cruise control on icy roads.
  •  Allow more time for braking when visibility is poor.
  •  Stay calm if you start to skid.

Carry Emergency Supplies

In addition to the just-in-case items you should always have in your vehicle, such as jumper cables (and learn how to jump-start your car safely,) tire-changing tools, flashlight, and first aid kit, be sure to include these winter essentials:

  • Small folding shovel
  • Tow and tire chains
  • Basic tool kit
  •  Bag of road salt or cat litter
  •  Windshield wiper fluid
  • Antifreeze
  •  Warning flares

Pack a Survival Kit

In case you’re ever marooned in your vehicle, you might want to keep a small survival kit on hand, in case of emergencies. Some useful items include:

  • Compass
  •  Ice scraper and brush
  •  Wooden matches
  •  High-energy, non-perishable food
  • Cell phone charger
  • Blankets and warm clothing

If you’re heading out on a road trip – even a relatively short road trip – you could find yourself stranded for several hours. Be sure you have the proper emergency items in your trunk to stay safe until help arrives. (Scroll over the image State Farm put together to see the junk you need to have in your trunk.)

road trips

Stay Calm if Stranded

If a winter storm strands you with your vehicle, follow these tips:

  • Pull off the highway, if possible, turn on your hazard lights or light flares, and hang a distress flag from an antenna or window.
  • Call 911 if you have a phone and describe your location as precisely as possible.
  • Remain in your vehicle so help can find you.
  • Run your vehicle’s engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. Open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Exercise a little to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion and sweating.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Conserve your vehicle’s battery. Use lights, heat, and radio sparingly.
  • At night, turn on an inside light when you run the engine so help can see you.

 

Have you ever been stranded on a road trip? Any other travel safety tips for winter road trips you’d like to add?

 

Note to the Reader: State Farm provided the list of tips noted above, as well as payment for this post. However, I would not post this if I did not think the tips were useful. We’re all good neighbors who want to make sure you’re prepared and safe on your next road trip!

9 Comments

  • There are many things we’d all rather think about and do other than seasonal car maintenance, but this must be done or we risk our cars not starting or breaking down. Each year, one should take your car for necessary upkeep at the mechanic to prepare it for the late fall/ winter season.

  • I agree that it is so important to have four-wheel drive, especially if you live in a heavily snowed area. Learning from experience like you did when you had to fill your car with kitty litter can be dangerous, and this is one scenario when learning from other’s experiences are helpful. When I was younger, I didn’t have four-wheel drive in my first car, and that first winter was terrifying. It certainly would’ve been much easier with four-wheel drive, so I’m glad that you finally have a snow-safe car now.

  • I don’t actually do driving in winter times, but I think as one of the driver of our family, I really need to. I want to be prepared if this is going to happen sooner. But, in case of emergency I would really have to know the tips to avoid accidents and I’m glad that I found this article. Thanks a lot!

  • Hey, Elaine! Thank you so much because of your helpful post! I have a road trip this winter and don’t know how to prepare for it. Now,my mind is at rest thanks to your travel safety tips.

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