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5 Essential Tips For Safe Winter Driving

Be Prepared When Mother Nature Unleashes Her Fury

5 Tips for Winter Driving Travels with Bibi

After my recent move to the higher elevations of North Carolina, I’ve quickly discovered a lot more about Mother Nature and the need to be familiar with essential winter driving safety tips.

The most important lesson I’ve learned?

5 Tips for Winter Driving Travels with Bibi

Mother Nature is two-faced! She can be sweet and warm one day and spitting icy stones the next. And that’s ok. No matter where you live though, don’t ever underestimate Mother Nature, especially in the winter.

So what are people to do? They channel their inner Boy or Girl Scout and do everything they can to always be prepared!

In an effort to follow my own advice by preparing for the worst and hoping for the best, here are 5 tips for safer driving during the winter months if you live where Mother Nature doesn’t always play nice.

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Be Prepared

5 Tips for Winter Driving Travels with Bibi

I have had several experiences where I’ve thought I was prepared, but in hindsight, I could have done so much more.

I remember the time I stuck on a lonely stretch of highway, seriously needing a restroom when my daughter and I were headed across the country to Colorado.

I thought I was prepared because I had made sure to get new tires for my car before leaving. I had gotten the oil changed and all fluids checked. Anti-freeze? Check! Windshield wiper fluid? Check! Air pressure in tires? Check!

But despite all of my efforts, I still wasn’t prepared for what would turn out to be a freak snow storm that nearly shut down the interstate. The highway patrol officer’s advice was, “I don’t know what to tell you ma’am. Turn around, find a parking lot, and wait it out.”  What? Wait in a car for who knows how long, when I seriously need a restroom? No thank you! Time to get more prepared!

Be More Prepared

To be more prepared, keep a small tote or cooler in the car filled with non-perishable snacks and bottled water. A wool blanket that’s stored in the trunk would be useful if you are stranded without being able to run the engine for heat.

And believe it or not, an extra pair of socks just might save your life in an emergency situation!

And when you have to “go,” The Tinkle Belle provides women with a great option when there’s not a toilet anywhere in sight.

I’ve had personal experience with this nifty little contraption, and it’s perfect for use while stuck in a storm. You can check it out how you can go like a pro here.  And luckily for my male companions, any empty bottle should suffice.

Additionally, keep a small bag of cat litter in the car to help with traction in case you get stuck. Like I said before, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

Be Equipped

5 Tips for Winter Driving Travels with Bibi

There are some amazing map and driving apps out there that can help you navigate traffic and back roads.

If you’re looking for something other than Mapquest, Waze, or Google Maps, you may want to give these a try.

Getting around town is easier and more personal with HERE WeGo. Use offline maps to navigate without an internet connection. Get directions and other info you need to go from A to B your way, even if it’s down a road less traveled. HERE WeGo is available in iTunes for iOS and Google Play for Android.

Another choice that might get you out of a snowy situation is MapFactor. It includes basic navigation, GPS features and uses OpenStreetMap which means you can get free offline maps that are updated monthly. There are additional map options, but they may cost money. Some of the other features include voice directions, 2D and 3D modes, day and night themes, and more. MapFactor is also available for iOS and Android.

Either of these apps can be your best friend when it’s time to get off the beaten path and find a scarier, less-plowed option (see “get good tires” tip above and snag a sweet cash back Ebates deal on practically everything you need to buy!)

Be In Touch

Eliminate those pesky “Where are you?” and “What’s your ETA?” texts with the Life360 app. The state-of-the-art GPS location technology reports the real-time whereabouts of those that have accepted your invitation to join your circle and share their location.

Simply install the Life360 Family Locator app on your phone and invite your family. Once registered, each member appears as a unique icon on the navigational map so you’ll know exactly where they are. Life360 is available for iOS as well as Android.

Make sure your car is equipped with the necessary charger(s) and auxiliary cords too. I even go as far as traveling with a power pack which can charge phones when there are no other options.

Be Smart

Know when to call it quits. Calculate your risk and tolerance if you might be stranded in the winter weather for hours on end.

If you have no children in tow and are listening to a binge-worthy podcast with a full tank of gas, then hit the road. Just be mentally prepared for the potential of  sitting in the car for hours (or longer) and enjoy.

If that doesn’t sound appealing to you, have a packed bag and stowed in your car with basic overnight provisions and get a hotel!

I hope you’re never in a situation such as this but if you are, you have these tips to think about make yourself better prepared.

These ideas come from my own experiences, as well as the not-so-tall tales of fellow travelers. I hope you find them useful in case Mother Nature decides to unleash her fury on your road trip.

What are some ideas that have helped you while driving during the winter months? Please let us know in a comment below because your experience just might keep someone else out of a life-threatening situation.

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60 Comments

    1. Thanks Celine! We had an ice storm the day I wrote this article and the weather may have been the incentive behind it. 🙂

  1. Having lived in Minnesota most of my life, I agree with the entire post. The best thing you can do is prepare, and then prepare some more. You never know what mother nature might throw at you.

    1. Wow, I’ll bet winter in Minnesota got rough! I agree with you, Nicole, it’s always best to be prepared, and then prepare some more!

  2. This is great stuff. As an ex-pat Canuck who’s had plenty of experience with drivers who have no clue what they’re doing when the snow hits, I can say that you’ve provided useful info on potentially life-saving preparations one should make. Thanks!

    1. Thank you Steve! I actually learned how to drive in the snow when I took driver’s ed classes in the winter, in Maryland, on a snowy beltway around Baltimore. It was terrifying when my fellow students took the wheel and I remember it to this day, many decades later.

  3. Yeah very good tips, whenever one is travelling long or short always prepare yourselves for the worst, many times things are not in our control, but always being prepared is always a good idea for sure. thanks

    1. I remember Gettysburg winter weather well! There was a winter camping trip when I was in high school…when we woke up, there was snow on the ground! That was decades ago but I still remember it!

  4. Such great tips and timely advice as the snow is heading my way right now! I definitely need to work on being more prepared for winter weather. Thanks!

  5. My idea would be to stay home and have a winters supply of firewood and hot cocoa! Which is why I choose to live in FL! LOL These are great tips and who knew you could get Ebates on tires!

    1. If you ever have a freak ice storm or something, hopefully these tips will help. Now that I’m retired and mindful of every penny I spend, I’ve discovered Ebates to be the best thing since sliced bread! 🙂

  6. Very good advice! I do some of these but definitely not all of them. I love the idea of a small bag of litter – my dad used to do that and I forgot all about it.

    1. Mother Nature can unleash weird winter weather even in typically sunny and warm locations. I hope these tips help those that live in areas like that.

    1. Yes, I was a winter supply slacker myself until that road trip and unexpected snow storm. Now I try to be as prepared as possible.

    1. I’m not kidding about the socks! That one seemingly insignificant item can be a lifesaver in a survival situation. I have an old wool blanket that’s kept in the car…..if I need them, they will be priceless yet so easy to keep on hand.

    1. Yes! I see it all the time when the roads are flooded here and people just drive right on through. What if the road is collapsed underneath the water? Crazy.

  7. One thing to remember is that your ravine kit (as my mom calls it) should not be in the trunk. You should keep it in the back seat so that it’s easily accessible if you aren’t able to exit the vehicle. We add a few more items, including a large candle in a metal coffee can for heat, if needed, and matches to light it.

  8. These tips are perfect as so necessary! I always keep a blanket, gloves, roadside kit, etc in my car as well.

  9. These are such great tips! I’ve been in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia for 5 years now, but spent my entire lifetime before that in Florida!! Winter weather can be very fickle! Flash floods, icy roads, downed trees, etc. There are always numerous wrecks so being smart is definitely key!!

  10. Oh, I don’t miss this for anything. LOL. We just moved to Florida a little over a year ago from New England. I remember stocking blankets and supplies in the back during the winter. Thank God for modern technology and having the ability to contact someone if in trouble. Right? Of course, the biggest thing is to know when to quit – I like that. It’s more important to be safe and arrive safely.

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