How to Stay Safe in Winter Weather
Take basic safety precautions to limit the threats posed by season's first storm
DENVER (Oct. 8, 2019) – Hazardous storms and inclement weather are a factor in half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. AAA urges drivers to slow down, be cautious, and prepare for worst-case conditions during their morning commutes. Before heading out, visit CoTrip.org for the latest road conditions and incident information, especially if you are driving over mountain passes.
"It doesn't matter what kind of car you drive. Snow and ice pose significant risks to every single motorist, and doubly so if they're accompanied by high winds," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "Budget extra time, take it slow, and keep a vigilant eye on traffic conditions in front of you. You're not invincible, and watch out for the driver who thinks that he or she is."
AAA is encouraging drivers to be prepared and offers the below tips.
Winter Driving Kit
- Keep an emergency kit in your car with tire chains, abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, small shovel, flashlight with extra batteries, ice scraper, rags or paper towels, flares or other warning devices, booster cables and a first aid kit.
- Bring blankets, jackets, hats and gloves for you and your passengers
- Pack waters and snacks, such as energy bars, and bring pet food if you're traveling with four-legged friends.
- Charge your mobile phone before you hit the road.
AAA Safe-Driving Tips for Slick or Icy Roadways
- Slow down: Accelerate, turn, and brake gradually. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself ample room to stop. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
- Don’t tailgate: Normal following distances of three to four seconds on dry pavement should be extended to a minimum of eight to ten seconds when driving on slippery surfaces. The extra time will provide additional braking room should a sudden stop become necessary.
- Watch the traffic ahead: Slow down immediately at the sight of brake lights, fishtailing cars, sideways skids, or emergency flashers ahead.
- Avoid unnecessarily changing lanes: This increases the chance of hitting a patch of ice between lanes that could cause loss of vehicle control.
- Use extreme caution on bridges and overpasses: Black ice typically forms first in shaded areas of the roadway and on bridges and overpasses that freeze first and melt last. Although the road leading up to a bridge may be fine, the bridge itself could be a sheet of ice.
- Move over: Move over one lane for law enforcement and emergency roadside assistance personnel assisting motorists. It’s the law. If you can’t move over, slow down.
- Don't power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
- Don't stop going up a hill. There's nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road.
AAA Tips for Braking on Ice
- Minimize the need to brake on ice: If you're approaching a stop sign, traffic light, or other area where ice often forms, brake early on clear pavement to reduce speed. Maintaining control of your vehicle is much more difficult when braking on ice-covered roadways.
- Control the skid: In the event of a skid, ease off the accelerator and steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go.
- If your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS): Do not remove your foot from the brake during a skid. When you apply the brakes hard enough to make the wheels lock momentarily, you will typically feel the brake pedal vibrate and pulsate back against your foot. This is normal and the system is working as designed. Do not release pressure on the pedal or attempt to “pump” the brakes.
- If your car does not have an anti-lock braking system: Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to modulate the pressure applied to the brake pedal so the brakes are at the “threshold” of lockup but still rotating.
AAA Tips when Icing Conditions Affect Vehicles
- Completely clear off your car before driving: Failing to remove all snow and ice from the hood, roof, trunk and all windows of your vehicle can endanger other motorists and seriously limit your visibility while driving.
- Ice coated windshield/windows: NEVER pour hot water on windshield or windows. This can cause the glass to break. Use vehicle defrosters to melt ice for easier removal. Don’t use windshield wipers to remove ice – this will damage the blades.
- Frozen windows: Do not continue to push the power window buttons if the window is frozen. It can damage the mechanics inside the door and can also cause the window to break.
- Frozen locks: Never use water to thaw frozen locks. Instead use commercial deicing products or heat the key and lock with a hair dryer. A lighter can also be used to heat the key.
- Frozen windshield wipers: If windshield wipers are frozen to the windshield, use the heater and defroster to melt the ice before turning the windshield wipers on. When you arrive at your destination, remember to pull the windshield wipers away from the windshield to prevent refreezing.
AAA Tips when Your Car Gets Stuck
- Stay in the vehicle: If you leave your vehicle, you will become disoriented quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
- Conserve gas: Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
- Breathe easy: While running the motor, open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Clear snow from the exhaust pipe regularly.
- Be visible to rescuers: Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine. Tie a bright colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door. After the snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.
- If you are a AAA member: Call us (1-800-AAA-HELP), download the mobile app, or request service online in order to receive emergency roadside assistance.
- Have your membership card and ID ready.
- Allow us to confirm the year, make, and model and location of your vehicle.
- Allow us to confirm the nature of the breakdown so we can send the appropriate resources to properly service your vehicle.
About AAA Colorado
More than 695,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state’s greatest advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 60 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services — as well as member-exclusive savings. A not-for-profit organization since its founding in 1923, AAA Colorado has been recognized as the number one Colorado company its size for its advocacy, community engagement, and corporate social responsibility efforts – and is a proud member of Points of Light’s “The Civic 50 Colorado,” recognizing the 50 most community-minded companies in the state. For more information, visit AAA.com.