On the Road in a Blizzard: Tips for Driving Safely in the Snow

If you have to head out in the snow and ice, make sure you're prepared for rough driving

A late winter nor'easter is threatening to drop a foot or more of snow on much of the Northeast through Tuesday, with New York City, parts of northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut under a blizzard warning from the National Weather Service. A travel ban will be in effect in Connecticut from 5 a.m. on Tuesday until further notice. Elsewhere, speed will be restricted on highways, HOV highways lane will not open in some areas and some commercial traffic will be prohibited. Officials are urging people to avoid unnecessary travel.

"Extremely fast snow fall rates will create dangerous roadway conditions, and we urge everyone to be prepared to stay off the roads, take public transit if necessary and work from home if possible," Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.

Winter travel can be dangerous. Winter storms contribute to more than 2,000 road deaths every winter and nearly half a million crashes, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio urged residents to keep roads clear for snowplows and first responders. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, "if you must drive, please plan ahead, be careful, and stay safe."

So if you do find yourself driving in treacherous conditions, here are some tips for remaining safe on the road from the AAA and transportation officials.


  • Be prepared: Have an emergency kit in your car that includes a bag of cat litter, sand or other abrasive materials to get traction on ice, a shovel, flashlight and extra batteries, gloves or mittens, boots, ice scraper and snow brush, jumper cables, blanket, warning flares or triangles, food and water, first-aid items, extra windshield-washer fluid and antifreeze and a piece of bright cloth.
  • Take your cell: Charge your mobile phone and bring a charger with you. If you do charge your phone in the car, make sure your tailpipe is clear to avoid the danger from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Fill it up: Fill your gas tank and check wiper blades, windshield-washer fluid, oil and antifreeze.

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  • Drive slowly: Accelerate and stop slowly to avoid skids.
  • Hang back: Increase the distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. The extra space will provide the longer distance you will need if you have to stop.
  • Easy on the brake: Brake early by applying firm, steady pressure on the pedal. Don’t stop if you can avoid it. If you can roll slowly until a traffic light changes, do it. It is much easier to get moving while rolling than from a full stop.
  • Taking hills: Don’t power up hills  — your wheels may just begin to spin. Instead get momentum before you reach the hill, and slow down when you reach the top.
  • Careful on the bridge: Be especially cautious on bridges, which freeze first, and on highway exit ramps, which might have gotten less anti-icing material.
  • Avoid cruise control: Don’t use cruise control in wintry conditions because even roads that appear clear can have slippery spots. The slightest tap on your brakes to deactivate the cruise control could cause you to lose control.
  • If you get stranded: Stay in your vehicle, avoid over-exertion, let fresh air in, run the engine every 10 minutes, but make sure your exhaust pipe is free of snow. Turn on the dome light at night when the engine is running. Change your position often, move your hands and legs, rub your hands together or put them under your armpits or between your legs and remove your shoes occasionally and rub your feet.


  • Clear your car: If clearing the snow and ice is too difficult for you, ask for help.
  • Shovel with care: Pace yourself, shovel for 15 to 20 minutes at a time and be aware of the warning signs of hear attacks. 
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