Cars driving through a blizzard
shutterstock/Narongsak Nagadhana

Things to Remember When Driving in the Winter Snow

We’re all used to a dusting of snow in CoMo. Even up to around an inch is pretty easy to manage, because that’s just winter. But when we start accumulating snow on top of snow on top of snow, combined with single-digit or even negative temperatures, we are not as used to that.

Here’s a list of things to remember about driving in the snow and the cold around CoMo and Jeff City!

Prepare your car for the worst.


Make sure you have anything you need in your car in case the worst happens. This should include an ice scraper/snow brush, an extra pair of gloves, socks/ extra shoes in case yours get wet, a blanket, some hot hands packets, cat litter or sand (to gain you traction if your wheel is spinning in the snow), a small snow shovel, a phone battery bank and a car charger, snacks, first aid kit, jumper cables, flashlight, LED flashers or hazard triangles.

Chances are you won’t need all of this, but the extra weight in the car can help the back of your car gain traction (aka, less fishtailing), and it’s there JUST IN CASE you get stuck on the side of the road.

Drive extra carefully.


What is the most precious item in your life? Your pet? Your significant other? Your kids? Your big screen television (hey, I’m not judging!)? Drive through snow like you have precious cargo in the car. Whether you’re in your neighborhood or on 63, drive with at LEAST 3-4 car lengths in between you and the car in front of you. Drive at least 10mph lower than the posted limit. Allow yourself extra stopping distance, and adhere the brakes slowly and steadily; don’t slam them or pump them- it’ll cause you to lose control of your vehicle.


Maintain your car.


You should ALWAYS make sure your car is maintained but it is extra necessary in the winter! Make sure your tires are fully inflated (and the cold weather can decrease your pressure, so keep an eye on it!). Look at the tread on your tires. The less tread, the more likely you are to slide off into a ditch, so if you’re going into winter knowing new tires are on the horizon, it’s better to get them BEFORE the first big snow fall! Keep your gas tank at least half full. The extra weight of the fuel can help you navigate a loss of traction while driving. Make sure your oil has been changed recently. The last thing you need when you’re driving in the cold is to have your engine malfunction!


Stay calm.


The number one tool at your disposal is the ability to stay calm when you’re in a less than ideal situation. If you’re fishtailing, keeping a cool head can help you navigate yourself out of the skid faster and safer. If you glide off the road into a ditch, tell yourself you can panic later, but you have things to do now. Keeping your cool in this stressful situation can be a life-saving strategy!


What should I do if…

… I’m fishtailing (or the back side of my car is drifting)


As soon as you feel the back of your car skidding, take your foot off the gas. Slowly brake. If there is space, turn your steering wheel in the direction your back side is going. This won’t always be the case on a busy road or in an intersection. Stay calm. As soon as your car stops fishtailing, slowly accelerate and head in the direction you want to go.

… I’m in a ditch


If you’re stuck in a ditch, and can’t get out, first get some extra layers on you. The last thing you need is frostbite when you’re trying to get yourself unstuck. If you have kitty litter or sand, pour some in the direction you want your car to go (so if you’re trying to drive forward, put it in front of all four tires). Try to get it as close to under the tire as you can. Bonus tip, your floor mats can be used as emergency traction when your tire is spinning in mud or snow! Get back in your car and try to safely pull yourself out of the ditch. If you still can’t, call your tow service, turn on your dome light, put out hazard triangles (and have your hazard lights on, too), and if it’s really blizzardy out, tie a brightly colored scarf or cloth to your antenna for a little more visibility for your tow. Make sure someone else knows where you are, too, send them a pin or turn on your location sharing on your phone! And keep your phone charged! Plug it into your car or your power bank. Keep warm. Put on all layers of clothing, and use air-activated heat packets, and put a blanket over yourself until help arrives. If it’s going to be a long time before help arrives, conserve your gas. Only turn on your car to heat it enough to take the chill out of the air and then turn your car back off!


Be safe out there, Mid-Mo!

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