Winter driving safety

Plan ahead for winter travel

Winter might be bearing down on us like the Polar Express, but there’s a thing or two you can do to make sure you and your passengers stay safe.

Before you hit the road

Is your vehicle ready for the snow, cold, and ice? Here’s a handy checklist from the National Safety Council (NSC) that will help you be sure:

  • Test your battery; battery power drops as the temperature drops.
  • Make sure the heat is working.
  • Have winter tires with deeper, more flexible tread put on your car. If using all-season tires, check the tread and replace if less than 2/32 of an inch. 
  • Check the tire pressure; tire pressure drops as the temperature drops.
  • Check your wiper blades and replace if needed.
  • Add wiper fluid rated for -30 degrees.
  • Keep at least half a tank of gas in your car to avoid fuel line freeze-up and to keep the heater running if you’re stranded.

Pack wisely

The old saw, "Hope for the best, prepare for the worst,” is good winter driving advice. If disaster strikes, leaving you stranded, you’ll want to have a few necessities to sustain you until help arrives. There are multiple ready-made kits available from multiple sources, and Consumer Reports magazine has reviewed some of the top contenders here. In addition to the basics — jumper cables, a flashlight with spare batteries, reflective safety vest, emergency markers, and a rudimentary first-aid kit — your winter breakdown box should include:

  • A folding shovel to help you clear heavy snow and ice around your vehicle
  • A blanket to keep you warm
  • Cat litter or sand to supply extra traction if your car gets stuck
  • Non-perishable, nutrient-rich snacks, such as trail mix
  • Toe/hand warmers to keep your extremities in working order
  • Matches in the event you need to start a fire
  • A fire extinguisher because not all fires — particularly any occurring under the hood of your car — are useful>
  • A supply of water — preferably in a freeze-proof container — because hydration is key
  • An ice scraper
  • Extra hats and gloves for passengers, or to replace yours if they get lost or soaked
  • Waterproof, insulated boots to keep your feet from freezing if you have to spend any time outside your vehicle
  • A fluorescent flag to flag emergency vehicles or rescue crews

 Sources: National Safety Council, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Consumer Reports

The information included in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and its employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with any training, materials, suggestions or information provided. It is the user’s responsibility to confirm compliance with any applicable local, state or federal regulations. Information obtained from or via Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company should not be used as the basis for legal advice or other advice, but should be confirmed with alternative sources.