Winter Weather Safety

Safety on the roads takes on extra importance when weather turns icy and cold

Being prepared can make a difference in driver and passenger safety.

Ways to be Prepared for Winter Weather

  • Slow down
  • Plan your ahead
  • Avoid travel during weather events
  • Watch for weather alerts
  • Headlights on
  • Leave room for the plow
  • Move over for flashing lights
  • View roadways from a plow or traffic cam on MN511
  • Adjust your route
  • Fuel up
  • Call ahead to check for cancellations
  • Get a vehicle check up (tires, fluids, etc.)
  • Have your car kit ready
Man driving in winter weather
Woman's hand holding pen over winter survival checklist on clipboard

Winter Survival Kit Checklist

  • Blankets
  • Boots
  • Jacket
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Small candles and matches
  • Snacks
  • Red bandana or cloth
  • Whistle
  • Cell phone charger/adapter
  • Plastic flashlight and batteries
  • Pencil and paper
  • Sand or kitty litter
  • Booster cables
  • Towing cable or chain
  • Road flares or reflectors
  • 30 foot cord for homing line if exiting vehicle

Slick, icy roads can result in dangerous driving conditions.

Review these tips before driving in the winter:

To avoid skidding

  • Drive at a speed that’s safe for the road conditions. Remember that this may be slower than the posted speed limit.
  • Give yourself plenty of distance to stop and stay at least ten car-lengths behind snowplows.
  • Never use cruise control on wet or snow-covered roads.

If your vehicle starts to skid:

  • Do not panic
  • Resist the urge to slam on the brakes – this could lock your wheels and worsen the skid.
  • Ease your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of your vehicle to go.
  • If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply a steady firm pressure to the brake pedal. Don’t pump ABS brakes.

You, as the driver is the vehicle’s best safety feature. Watch for slick spots, especially on bridges and overpasses. Be physically and mentally prepared to react – and remember that your seat belt is your first defense in a crash.

If you leave the roadway or a crash occurs

It’s important to know what to do if you find yourself in the ditch or in a disabled vehicle so you stay safe while waiting for help. Crashes that occur as a result of an earlier initial crash are known as secondary crashes. These can occur, for example, when a vehicle is following too closely and there is not enough time to react or when the following vehicle hits the same patch of ice and slides into the same ditch. This can be exceptionally dangerous for the victims of the initial crash and first responders on the scene. Getting out of the vehicle to inspect the damage is dangerous as it leaves you vulnerable to passing traffic. The first reported fatality of 2023 occurred when a driver was struck and killed outside the vehicle while waiting to be towed. The protection your vehicle provides may save your life.

  1. Stay in your vehicle.
  2. Keep your seat belt on.
  3. Turn on hazard lights.
  4. If your car isn’t drivable, stay inside and move to the seat furthest from traffic, creating more room between you and other vehicles on the road.
  5. If your car is drivable, worry less about “preserving the scene” for law enforcement and more about protecting yourself and your car from further damage. This could mean driving (if possible) to the nearest off-ramp or underpass.
  6. Once you’re safe, call 911.
Car stuck in snowy roadway. Two people pushing car.

More winter driving safety tips:

  • Don’t drive distracted.
  • Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions.
  • Stay alert for snowplows, which travel slower, turn often or exit frequently. Snowplows may travel over centerlines or partially into traffic to clear roads and improve conditions.
  • Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow. Don’t drive into a snow cloud.
  • Turn headlights on.
  • Turn off cruise control.
  • Wear your seat belt.
  • Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
Use of the information on this website is at the user’s sole risk. The contents are provided as general information for the purpose of education and better understanding of organizations’ roles in winter road way safety.  All information is provided in good faith from a variety of resources based on available information at the time of publishing. The cited organizations make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability or completeness of any information on this website. Under no circumstances do the organizations represented have any liability for any loss or damage incurred as a result of the use of this website or reliance on any information provided on this website. This website contains links to third party websites. Such links are provided solely for the convenience of users. The user is advised the organizations represented make no guarantees whatsoever as to any information contained on a linked third party website. The use of any information from a linked third party is solely at the user’s risk.
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