6 things to do if your car gets stuck in the snow

Posted at 10:43 AM, Dec 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-09 11:43:38-05

Snow is a memorable part of the holiday season. It can provide hours of fun, but it also increases dangers on the road.

Many drivers fail to clean snow and ice off of their cars or forget to winterize their vehicles. These and other common mistakes can make the difference between a cozy holiday and a devastating accident.

Prepare for possible scenarios with these tips to follow if your vehicle gets stuck in the snow:

1. Turn on your hazard lights

Visibility is often an issue for stranded drivers, as passersby might hit you by accident. If possible, pull off the road and immediately turn on your hazard lights to ensure others on the road are aware of your presence. Use road flares if you have them (add them to your emergency kit, if you don't). This will tell others you need help, and protect you from traffic in the area.

2. Update your emergency kit

Every driver should keep and update an emergency kit in their vehicle, no matter the weather. Winter weather calls for specialized equipment to always have on hand:

  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Blankets and warm clothing
  • Jumper cables
  • Ice scraper
  • Antifreeze
  • Tire chains and tire repair/changing kit
  • Bottled water and a receptacle for melting snow
  • Non-perishable food
  • Sand or cardboard for traction
  • Road flares

With these materials, you should be able to conserve your energy and heat until help arrives. For more information about vehicle emergency kits, including other items you can packs, check the Nebraska Department of Transportation website.



3. Stay in your vehicle

Unless there is a building within walking distance, stay in your vehicle when possible. This provides you with shelter, a place to think and regroup and potentially a way to alert others that you are in need of assistance. Additionally, if you’re stuck in the middle of the road, it’s unwise to rush out onto the road in poor visibility.

4. Conserve fuel and check your tailpipe

If you’re stuck in the snow, and your car is at a standstill, you are at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. Check that your exhaust tailpipe is clear of snow, so you don’t get a buildup of fatal gas on the interior. Don’t leave your vehicle running to stay warm. Instead, periodically turn on your vehicle to warm up, and then turn it off to conserve gas. Help may arrive quickly, but it’s best to plan for the worst case scenario.

5. Stay hydrated

One of the biggest concerns for stranded drivers is staying hydrated. If you can stay hydrated, your body has an easier time maintaining its core temperature. If you don’t have bottled water on hand, melt snow to increase your water intake. This will help you keep a clear head and stay warm longer.

6. Keep your seatbelt on

Snow offers poor visibility while driving, which affects you and other drivers who may be passing you. If you know you’ll be waiting in your vehicle, continue to wear your seatbelt. Passersby could easily hit your vehicle, particularly if you’re on the shoulder or in the road. With your hazard lights and seatbelt on, you’re doing what you can to avoid getting hurt in an accident, even though your car is stationary.

The best tip of all is to avoid getting stuck in the snow, which is why it’s important to have new tires with enough tread to handle icy roads. Contact your local tire and auto experts for a winter tire check to stay safe this season.