Driving in winter weather can be tricky – ice makes roads slick and falling snow limits your visibility. In 2019, there were around 33,000 injury crashes due to wintry conditions, according to the NHTSA. 

So slow down when there’s winter weather and increase your following distance. Avoid risky driving behaviors like texting behind the wheel and driving impaired. And ask yourself whether you really need to make that trip – if the weather is too risky to drive, stay home.

Keep reading for more on what you need to know about getting on the road during winter weather.

Prepare your car for winter weather

Season changes are a good time to check on your vehicle’s tires – make sure they still have a tread of 2/32 of an inch or more, inspect them for damage and ensure proper inflation levels. Check your lights – headlights, brake lights, turn signals and flashers. Swap out windshield wipers if they’re damaged or old. Check your coolant system and keep your gas tank close to full and keep electric vehicles charged.

Create an emergency kit for your vehicle

During the winter, drivers should keep an emergency kit in their vehicles that includes a paper map, battery-operated radio and flashlight, extra winter clothes and blankets, nonperishable food and water, flares, jumper cables, a snow shovel, ice scraper and gloves. In mountainous areas, drivers should carry tire chains and a bag of sand for wheel traction.

Drive safely around snow plows

The Nevada Department of Transportation lists tips for operating safely around snow plows and says drivers should use caution when following, passing or approaching snow plows as a snowplow driver’s field of vision is restricted. 

Other tips:

  • Drive a safe distance behind plows.
  • Don’t drive next to a snowplow if possible.
  • Don’t brake unnecessarily in front of a snowplow.
  • Only pass when the road is adequately clear of snow.

Shop for full coverage car insurance 

Collision and comprehensive coverage, which comprise full coverage car insurance, can protect drivers during winter weather months. Full coverage car insurance with limits of 100/300/100 costs $1,682 per year, on average, according to 2022 data. Check out CarInsurance.com’s car insurance estimator tool to see how much you’ll pay.

Collision provides coverage if you crash into another vehicle by sliding on black ice or hitting an object like a guardrail. Comprehensive car insurance comes into play for severe weather damage and if you hit an animal, as well as theft/vandalism, falling objects, fire, glass damage and floods.

Here’s what to do if you’re in a winter weather car accident

If you’re involved in a car accident due to wintry weather, the Insurance Information Institute recommends the following steps:

  1. Pull your vehicle to the side of the road so you don’t impede traffic.
  2. Check on your passengers – make sure everyone is OK.
  3. Assess your vehicle damage – take photos of any damage.
  4. Record the details of the accident. If you hit an unattended vehicle, leave a note with your name and contact information. Get the names and contact information of any witnesses. Exchange driver’s license and insurance information with any other drivers involved. Note the location of the accident, time of day and weather conditions.
  5. Alert the police and highway patrol in the case of a serious accident and file an accident report on the police department’s website.
  6. Notify your insurance company to start the claims process.

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Executive Editor

Laura is an award-winning editor with experience in content and communications covering auto insurance and personal finance. She has written for several media outlets, including the USA Today Network. She most recently worked in the public sector for the Nevada Department of Transportation.