AAA's Tips for Safe Winter Driving
Updated: October 11, 2023
AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
Before You Go
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Before you start your trip, make sure your vehicle is prepared for safe travel.
• Check the tread on your tires and replace them if necessary.
• Make sure your windshield and rear window defrosters are in proper working condition.
• Keep plenty of windshield washer fluid in your reservoir and don't dilute the solution with water.
It’s always a good idea to have your vehicle checked by a mechanic before taking a trip. You can find a AAA Approved Auto Repair shop near you at . If you’re not confident that your car is ready for a road trip or you’d like additional features such as four-wheel drive or extra cargo space, consider renting a car. Hertz offers discounts and benefits for AAA members, as well as Hertz Gold Standard Clean, which is a 15-point cleaning process that ensures your vehicle meets the CDC sanitization guidelines. Find details at AAA.com/Hertz.
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What to Bring
• Keep a bag of sand or cat litter, a shovel and traction mats in your trunk or cargo area in case you get stuck in icy conditions.
• Pack useful items such as blankets, gloves, flashlights, food and water.
• Have tire chains on hand in case you encounter ice or snow.
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How to Drive Safely in Winter Conditions
• Remove all ice and snow from your vehicle before you start driving.
• To defrost your windows, set the temperature control to hot and let the engine warm up, which helps keep frost from forming inside. If the windshield and side windows fog on the inside, open a window slightly and set the fan to a higher speed.
• During snow or other low-visibility winter driving conditions, drive with your low-beam headlights on to make it easier for other drivers to see you.
• Brake, accelerate and steer gently, gradually and smoothly.
• If you encounter a snowplow or salt trucks, allow plenty of space and don't try to pass.
• Clean your headlight lenses periodically, such as when you stop for gas, to remove grime from slushy streets. Clear any snow and ice from your vehicle as well, as it can fly off and strike other vehicles.
• Obey the Basic Speed Law any time there's a possibility of icy roads. This means never traveling at speeds that aren’t reasonable and safe for conditions. It's important to reduce speed because you may encounter patches of black ice that are difficult or impossible to see. Bridges, ramps, overpasses and shaded areas may become icy before other surfaces. Be cautious at intersections, where stopping and starting vehicles can polish the ice, making it slicker.
• Wind gusts can make steering on ice more difficult, so it's critical to reduce speed during windy conditions. Be aware that buildings can cause sudden changes in wind direction.
Rely on AAA Travel for Every Mile of Your Road Trip
AAA Travel provides peace of mind for travelers — from the first mile of the journey to the last. Get inspiration for your next road trip with AAA’s TripTik Travel Planner, AAA Digital TourBook® or browse pre-planned itineraries at AAA.com/RoadTrips. Estimating fuel costs for your trip is easy with the AAA Gas Cost Calculator, and if your car needs a quick tune-up before the trip, find a AAA Approved Auto Repair facility near you at AAA.com/AutoRepair. For printed maps and trip planning advice, visit your local AAA office.
AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
Laurie Sterbens is a AAA Travel Expert.