You know the guidelines for driving across snowy roads: slow down, don’t hit the brakes too hard or turn too sharp, leave plenty of room between you and the car ahead of you, and so on.
Even if you’re prepared to drive, have you prepared your car? Your car should always be prepped with emergency tools and items, but it’s especially important during winter weather, when the chance of being stranded in dangerous conditions is much higher.
Whenever possible, it’s best to avoid the roads completely when conditions are treacherous. But if you must hit the highway, follow these winter survival tips before backing your car out of the driveway:
1. Make sure your gas tank is at least half full
Even if you’re not going far, try to keep your gas tank mostly full throughout the winter. Running out of gas is never fun, but you definitely don’t want to get stranded on the side of the highway during freezing conditions.
2. Pack extra gear to stay warm in an emergency
Let’s say you do get stranded. Think of the types of things that could help keep you warm while you wait for help: Mittens, scarves, blankets, sleeping bags, and even hand warmers are all good things to have packed in the car.
3. Alert loved ones about your trip
Before you leave, tell at least one person where you are traveling, what time you’re leaving, and what route you’re taking. Then, follow up once you arrive safely. This way, if something goes wrong, others will be able to find you quickly.
4. Pack nonperishable snacks
In the unlucky event that you’re stuck in your car for quite a while, it’s good to be prepared with something to eat. Consider healthier options like dried fruit and snack bars, but anything nonperishable (like candy bars) could be beneficial in an emergency.
5. Keep a shovel in your trunk
A simple shovel could save the day, but one word of caution: Don’t overexert yourself shoveling. While working up a sweat may initially feel good, getting your clothes sweaty could backfire and actually increase your risk of hypothermia.
6. Pack a winter survival kit
Things like booster cables, road reflectors, tow cables, snow chains, a whistle, a flashlight, and batteries could really come in handy in an emergency situation.
But once again, the best winter survival tip of all is to play it safe and stay off the roads until conditions improve. (And it’s not just in your car: Here are snow day safety tips to avoid injuries.)