Driving in winter weather can be tricky – ice makes roads slick, and falling snow limits 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.
Here’s 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. Keep electric vehicles charged.
Create an emergency kit for your vehicle
During the winter, drivers should carry emergency kits that include 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 or kitty litter 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.
- 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.
Consider 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.
In the winter, experts recommend that drivers carry the following coverages:
- Liability: Liability coverage insures you if your car causes injury or damage to another person’s property.
- Collision: Collision coverage pays for damages to your car caused by collision, whether or not the accident was your fault. Collision provides coverage if you crash into another vehicle by sliding on black ice or hitting an object like a guardrail.
- Comprehensive: Comprehensive insurance covers damages caused to your car due to factors other than collision, such as weather events, animal strikes or falling branches.
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:
- Pull your vehicle to the side of the road so you don’t impede traffic.
- Check on your passengers – make sure everyone is OK.
- Assess your vehicle damage – take photos of any damage.
- Record the details of the accident. If you hit an unattended vehicle, leave a note with your name and contact information. Get witnesses’ names and contact information — exchange driver’s license and insurance information with other drivers involved. Note the location of the accident, time of day and weather conditions.
- Alert the police and highway patrol in the case of a serious accident and file an accident report on the police department’s website.
- Notify your insurance company to start the claims process.
Resources & Methodology
- Insurance Information Institute. “What to do at the scene of an accident.” Accessed November 2023.
- Nevada Department of Transportation. “Safe Winter Driving.” Accessed November 2023.
- NHTSA. “Winter Weather Driving Tips.” Accessed November 2023.