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Safety Tips If You’re Trapped in a Car During a Snowstorm

Guest Contributor January 26, 2024
Cars fully covered by snow parked on the side of a road.

When a winter storm hits, it can wreak havoc and chaos on city streets and highways. Not only could you end up with a drained battery, get a flat tire or run out of gas, but when you drive during a snowstorm there are more risks that could lead to you being involved in a collision. If there’s bad weather, stay inside and off the roads if you can. However, if you do have to go outside, it’s important to remember safety is always the top priority when you’re behind the wheel.

No matter the car emergency, you’ll need to wait for assistance to help you get back on the road. If you find yourself stuck on the side of the road during bad winter weather, here are some safety tips to keep in mind.

Move out of harm’s way.

The most important thing to do when stranded in bad weather is to stay out of danger from oncoming traffic. To protect yourself and your car, pull over to the shoulder and stay there until roadside assistance arrives. Visibility is reduced for all drivers during a winter storm, so remaining on the side of the road inside your vehicle is the most important way to keep yourself safe. If you are broken down in a live lane of traffic and cannot pull off the road, turn on your hazard lights, call 911 immediately and remain in the vehicle with your seat belt on.

Stay inside your car.

When you’re pulled over, stay in your car with your seat belt fastened for as long as possible. In bad weather, it may be especially difficult for oncoming traffic to notice you or your car so stay safe inside of your vehicle with your hazard lights turned on until help arrives. If you know you’ll be in your car for a long time, turn it on for only a few minutes every hour to stay warm. You should also keep the windows open a little bit while running the car to reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

What to have inside your vehicle.

Depending on weather and your location, it could take time for help to arrive. It’s always a good idea to be prepared for an emergency, so you should have the essentials in your car to help you survive any weather condition. Keep a portable phone charger, a flashlight and extra batteries in your glove compartment to keep you powered up. Plus, it’s great to have snacks, water, a first aid kit, an emergency car kit with a reflective vest, extra clothes and a blanket handy.

What to do outside your car.

If you must get out of your vehicle, first make sure it is safe to do so by watching for oncoming traffic and exiting from the side away from traffic. Alert other motorists by making your vehicle visible by turning on your hazard lights. If you have a brightly coloured scarf, handkerchief or light jacket, tie it to the antenna or door handle, or hold it in place closing it in a window. Never stand behind or directly in front of your vehicle as you risk not being seen by other drivers. If you are stuck in a snowbank, do not overexert yourself trying to free your vehicle. When it's safe, check that your tailpipe is not blocked by snow and return to your vehicle to wait for help.

Whenever you need help, you can reach us by downloading the CAA App™, requesting roadside assistance or dialing *222 on your smartphone.

Members can receive real-time updates on service calls and wait times online or through the CAA App™.