Know Before You Go Out In The Snow - What To Do If Your Car Is Stuck On The Side Of The Road In The Winter

Winter weather can bring icy conditions, freezing rain, strong winds, and whiteout driving conditions. While it is best to stay home during a blizzard, you still may find yourself on the road, traveling for work or another necessity. If you have to drive during a storm, be prepared before you head out and know what to do if you slide off the road.

1. Call for Help

Depending on your condition, there are many people you should contact as soon as possible.

  • Family Members to let them know where you are and if you are hurt.
  • 911 for an ambulance if you are injured.
  • Towing Services – many are willing to drive in poor conditions to help you get out of a jam.

If you find yourself without a cell phone, do not venture far from your car to use a phone. Blowing snow can distort distances and make a building seem closer than it really is. It is best to stay in your car until the storm passes.

2. Be Prepared

If you live in a region that receives snow frequently, or you are expecting a freak storm, you should always have a winter survival kit in the car with you. Your winter survival kit should contain items to help you keep warm, attract attention, and get you out of the snow. When putting together your kit, include the following:

  • Windshield Scraper
  • Flashlight (store batteries backwards to preserve life)
  • Extra Batteries
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Snack Food (energy bars, raisins, and dried fruit are good options)
  • Extra Hats, Socks, and Mittens
  • Blankets
  • First Aid Kit
  • Pocket Knife
  • Tow Chain or Rope
  • Road Salt, Sand, or Cat Litter (use for traction)
  • Booster Cables
  • Emergency Flares and Reflectors
  • Fluorescent or Red Distress Flag (tie it to the antennae or hang out the window)
  • Cell Phone Adapter (the type that plugs into a car lighter)

Store your kit in the passenger seat so that you can access it from within the car. This is also a good place for the kit in case your trunk gets broken or is frozen shut.

In addition, keep your gas tank at least half full throughout the winter. This will allow you to run the car for a period of time and stay warm while you are waiting for help to arrive.

3. Stay in Your Vehicle

It may be tempting to try and find help yourself but it is best to stay inside your car and let the help come to you. Walking in a storm can be very dangerous. Other cars may not be able to see you or could slide off the road and hit you. You may also become lost or exhausted while trudging through the storm and not able to make it to shelter. In addition, wet clothes lose their insulation, making you susceptible to frostbite or hypothermia. It's best to just stay put until the blizzard passes.

4. Get Some Fresh Air

Snow can clog up the car's exhaust system so you will need to be careful to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only run the engine for 10 minutes every hour and keep a window cracked while it is running to allow for air exchange. It may be tempting to keep the car running the entire time, but it is better to bundle up under a blanket and be a little uncomfortable than die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Think survival, not comfort.

5. Stay Warm

Hopefully you have some extra clothes and blankets with you in your winter survival kit, but if not, use anything you have in the car to stay warm. Cover yourself with road maps, seat covers, or floor mats for insulation. Also, if there are other people with you, huddle together under a coat to share body heat.

6. Attract Attention

Tie a brightly colored distress flag to your antenna or hang it out your window to let others and services like Elden Dattage Towing & Auto Repair know that you need help. If you are in a remote area, stamp out SOS or HELP in the snow then line it with rocks or tree limbs. Rescue workers may survey the area and see your signal. If you have to stay in your car overnight, keep an inside light on so that work crews can see you.

The best way to survive a winter accident is to be ready before you leave the house. Make sure to assemble a survival kit and keep it in your car at all times. Know what to do if you get stuck on the side of the road and make sure you wait the storm out instead of venturing out of your car.