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Winter Driving Tips

Kansas Road Conditions Hotline:   Dial 511
Or visit www.kanRoad.org
If outside of Kansas call:  1-866-511-KDOT

Winter driving can be dangerous, especially for rusty drivers at the beginning of the season. After a long spring and summer, it is easy to forget how to drive on winter's slick roads and in low visibility. Common sense says to monitor the weather, travel only when necessary, keep your speed down, and drive defensively. The Patrol offers these additional suggestions for your safe winter travel.

First, prepare your vehicle. Extreme temperatures can be hard on vehicles. Check the fluids, ensuring that the radiator is winterized, the gas tank is over half-full, and there is plenty of windshield washing fluid. Check belts, hoses, and brake systems for excessive wear. Have the exhaust system checked; small leaks can allow carbon monoxide to enter the passenger compartment. Check tire treads for adequate traction, and replace windshield wiper blades if they are ineffective.

Keep survival kit that includes at least the following:

  • An ice scraper and shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlights
  • Sand or kitty litter for traction
  • Extra blankets or clothing
  • Non-perishable food
  • A first aid kit
  • Matches and candles or flares
  • Tow rope or chain

On the road remember the following:

  • Allow extra time for delays and slower traffic speeds.
  • Buckle up and properly secure children in safety seats.
  • Increase the distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you. Ice and snow significantly increase your stopping distance.
  • Accelerate and brake gently. A light foot on the gas is less likely to make wheels spin on ice and snow. Braking is best accomplished by pumping the pedal. If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), it is very important that you understand how to use it. Read the owner's manual or check with a dealership for more information, and practice using it correctly.
  • Make turns slowly and gradually, especially in heavily traveled areas (e.g. intersections that may be icy from snow that melted and refroze).
  • Visibility is very important. You must be able to see out, and other drivers must be able to see your vehicle. Clean frost and snow off all windows, mirrors, and lights. Use headlights as necessary.
  • If your car loses traction and begins to slide, steer into the swerve, or in the direction you want to go. Anticipate a second skid in the opposite direction as the car straightens out.
  • If you plan to drive, do not drink. Designate a driver or call a cab. Report impaired drivers to a law enforcement agency.
  • Watch for deer, especially near dusk and dawn.

If you are stranded in a winter storm, do not panic. Stay in the vehicle, keep fresh air circulating through a downwind window, run the motor sparingly, turn on the dome light, and stimulate circulation and stay awake by moving arms and legs. If you leave the car, work slowly in the snow to avoid over-exertion and the risk of a heart attack. If you have a cellular phone, call a Kansas Highway Patrol dispatcher by dialing *HP (47), or *KTA (582) while on the Kansas Turnpike.

You can also view and print other Patrol materials on this topic in the brochures section.