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Encompass® Insurance Insights & Articles

Caught in a Snowstorm: Now What?

Even with careful planning, winter weather may still catch you by surprise. When a snowstorm hits and you're on the road, knowing what to do can help keep you and your family safe.

Few cars driving during a snow storm.
  1. Assess the situation. Different types of snow pose different dangers. Smaller flakes may turn to ice on the windshield. Large, wet snowflakes can pile up quickly, causing slippery road surfaces. Given road conditions can change with little warning, be on alert for icy surfaces that with a sudden gust of wind could appear under a nice blanket of fresh snow. If the snow becomes extremely heavy and you are unable to see or control your vehicle, pull over into a nearby parking lot or the shoulder of a low-speed road (not a highway) until visibility improves.
  2. Slow down. A snow-covered roadway can also impact your braking ability and stopping distance. Keep in mind that colder temperatures can cause underinflated tires which could result in decreased response time for your car. Make sure to slow down and allow extra braking distance between your vehicle and the driver in front of you.
  3. Make your vehicle visible. Snowfall can obscure your ability to see other vehicles as well as make your vehicle less visible to other drivers. Turn on your headlights and fog lights, if your vehicle has them. If you slow down below the speed limit, use your hazard lights to alert other drivers. A sudden stop or quick direction change increases the risk for a spinout or collision with other vehicles. Use turn signals well in advance to communicate your intended plans, giving other drivers plenty of time to see the signal and respond.
  4. Be extra cautious on hills. Driving on hills or on an inclined surface, including highway on-ramps, can be challenging. If you lose traction on the way up, your vehicle could slide back down the hill and by going too fast over the top, you could lose control of your vehicle and spin out. Maintain a steady, controlled speed driving up and right before reaching the top, ease off the gas and if driving a manual vehicle, shift to a lower gear. Avoid accelerating and turning at the same time as it can shift weight away from your front wheels, decreasing steering control.
  5. Stay alert. With reduced stopping time and decreased visibility, even a minor distraction could increase the risk of an accident. Do not talk or text on your phone and turn off music so you can stay focused on the road. Be alert for animals, like deer, that may be near the roadway.
  6. Prepare in advance with a winter safety kit. Carry a winter safety kit in your vehicle. This kit can include a snow shovel, a bag of salt or cat litter (to provide traction if digging your car out of snow), a blanket to keep you warm, bottled water, energy bars and snack food, a small first aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, and extra warm clothing. Store these items in the passenger compartment as your trunk can become frozen shut or jammed in extreme winter weather.

Driving in snowy conditions can be challenging for even the most experienced and safety-conscious motorist. Always remember to check with your local insurance agent to be sure you have the necessary coverage to protect yourself.

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