Driving In A Snowstorm: What To Do If You Get Stranded In The Car

car driving in winter snowstorm or blizzard

The first snows of the season are happening around the country. As temperatures continue to lower and winter weather arrives, roads are getting slicker, and driving requires more attention. With snowstorms or winter storms becoming more frequent, reviewing the best practices for driving in snowy, icy, or other hazardous winter conditions is essential.

Driving in a snowstorm should be avoided if possible. However, if you need to drive in the snow, this article will inform you about actions to take if you get stranded in your vehicle, items to keep in your car, and tips for driving safely.

What To Do if You Get Stranded in Your Car

snow-covered car stranded roadside during snowfall

Getting stuck in your vehicle during a snowstorm can be a scary experience. However, you can prepare for this possibility by stocking your car with an emergency and winter driving kit (see next section) and keeping your cell phone on you.

An emergency kit includes a first aid kit, food, water, a multipurpose tool, toiletries, a tire repair kit, extra charging cords, and other items. Our Grab + Go Box has a complete list. 

Here’s what to do if you get stranded in your vehicle during a winter storm:

  1. Stay in your car. You’re safest from other vehicles and harsh weather conditions there. 
  2. Call 911, provide specific details, and wait for help to arrive.
  3. Keep your exhaust pipe clear. Run your engine periodically for heat (10 minutes each hour).
  4. Slightly crack a window to allow fresh air to circulate inside your car. This step is critical to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning when your engine is on. 
  5. Turn on your flashers; set up emergency flares or triangles if you have any. 
  6. Stay warm. Put on your gloves and hat, and use the blanket from your emergency kit. 
  7. Drink water and eat snacks from your emergency kit if you need to stay for an extended period of time.
  8. Use your phone only when necessary to conserve battery.
  9. Don’t stay in one position for too long. Instead, move your arms and legs around every so often to keep the blood circulating.
  10. Stay optimistic, motivated, and calm. It’s easy to lose hope and panic; however, be strong– you’ll get through it!

Winter Driving Kit

woman cleaning snow from car with snow brush

This section will list essential items to keep in your vehicle during winter, regardless of a snowy forecast or not. These items are important if you live in or are traveling to an area that typically gets snow.

  1. Ice scraper
  2. Snowbrush
  3. Small snow shovel 
  4. Kitty litter or sand (good for traction in snow)
  5. Tire chains or cables (check for specific requirements and instructions)
  6. Traction mats 
  7. Flashlights
  8. Window-washing solvent
  9. Cloth or paper towels
  10. Gloves or mittens and hats
  11. Blankets
  12. Booster cables
  13. Warning flares or triangles
  14. Fully charged cell phone and chargers
  15. Emergency food and water supplies

Winter Driving Tips 

view from car of road during bad winter weather in city

Due to limited visibility and slippery road conditions, driving in inclement weather can be frightening and dangerous. If you don’t have a four-wheel (4WD) or all-wheel (AWD) drive vehicle, think carefully before driving in slick road conditions. We have a few tips for driving in snowy conditions if you must travel. 

  1. Always keep your gas tank half full. Driving in snowy conditions can cause unexpected delays, road closures, and gas stations may not be available as you expected, so keep your tank at least half full to ensure you make it to your destination.
  2. Take care of your tire. Make sure your tires are properly inflated. Consider getting winter tires, especially if your region sees lots of snowfall. In some places, they are even mandatory. 
  3. Before starting your journey, clear off all ice and snow on your windshield, windows, hood, roof, trunk, and lights.
  4. Let your car engine warm up before taking off; never warm it up in an enclosed area like a garage.
  5. Drive slowly, smoothly, and with your headlights on at all times of the day. Avoid jerky movements such as sharp turns and slamming on the breaks.
  6. Look far ahead and anticipate what’s coming; think about your next move. 
  7. Avoid frequent stops; try to keep your car at a slow roll at all times instead of coming to a complete stop. 
  8. Leave extra space (10 cars length) between your vehicle and others. 
  9. Know what to do when your car skids. In general, you should always look in the direction you want to go, not in the direction of where your car is skidding. Don’t panic if your vehicle loses traction, and never slam on the brakes; keep steering until you regain traction

You can manually pump the brake pedal to maintain control on slippery roads if your vehicle doesn’t have anti-lock brakes. See these techniques for more information on how to deal with the skids. 

  1. Don’t be overconfident with 4WD and AWD. Assume your vehicle will behave like any other vehicle in snowy or icy conditions, and stay educated on the best driving practices.
  2. Do not use cruise control when driving in a winter storm or any inclement weather conditions. 
  3. If possible, avoid using your parking brake in cold, snowy, or rainy weather. 

Winter driving requires patience and planning. Reference this article anytime you need help preparing for your winter travels. Also, if you need help preparing your home for a winter storm, check out our Grab + Go Box. Stay safe!