How can I be safe while driving in the snow?

Leigh Vinocur, MD
Emergency Medicine
Driving is a potentially dangerous activity most of us have to do in the winter. Studies find that auto accident claims go up by 12% in the months of January and February. It goes without saying, if you don’t have to be out in a storm or before the roads are adequately cleared, try to stay home. Reduced traction with slippery conditions as well as reduced visibility from snow and flat light conditions all contribute to the many motor vehicle accidents we see in the ER. Another big component is driving too fast for the weather conditions, as well as not leaving enough braking distance between yourself and the car in front. Even all wheel drive vehicles can’t stop on a dime in icy conditions.
– Take it slow and leave plenty of time to get to your destination when driving in hazardous weather conditions.
– Avoid changing lanes quickly, cutting people off; they too need more time and distance to adequately brake and stop.

– Check to ensure your car is in good shape this winter with properly functioning brakes, battery and adequate fluid levels.

– Try not to go below a half tank of gas in the event of a slow, long commute during stormy weather, or if you get stuck and need to keep the car warm.

– If you do get stuck and you run your engine, make sure the tailpipe is not blocked with snow – carbon monoxide can leak into the car.

– It is important to have an emergency kit in your car if you get stranded. It should include a shovel and windshield scraper, warm blankets with an extra set of dry hat, gloves and outerwear, booster cables, sand or kitty litter, tow rope and flashlight, a battery-powered radio, some high-protein food, water, and a basic first aid kit.