AAA: Winter Weather Calls for Driver Preparation

Snow and cold weather make driving conditions more difficult for motorists, especially during storms when icy conditions prevail.   AAA Chicago advises motorists to prepare themselves and their vehicles for dangerous road conditions.  

“Motorists should allow extra time to get to their destination,” advises Beth Mosher, AAA Chicago spokesperson.  “Since speed is a factor in many crashes, never be in a hurry when road conditions are slick.  Monitor weather conditions and follow the advice from authorities.  If it is not safe to travel and you don’t need to venture out, don’t drive.  Wait until the road conditions improve.”

AAA recommends that motorists keep emergency supplies in their vehicle, including a cell phone, boots, gloves, blanket, any needed medications, a flashlight and reflective triangle.

“If you become stranded on a highway, it is best to stay with the vehicle.   If you can start your engine, run it for a few minutes at a time, just long enough to keep warm.  Always clear snow away from the exhaust pipe area before you start the engine.  A snow blocked exhaust pipe could cause deadly carbon monoxide gases to enter the passenger compartment,” warns Mosher. 

AAA will be adding staff to both its fleet vehicle operations and its call centers to help members who do need assistance because of the winter weather. Members can reach us via our toll-free number (1-866-YOUR-AAA), online at or on our mobile app - AAA Mobile - available for Android or iPhone users. For more information on AAA Mobile, visit

Defensive Driving

AAA recommends the following tips for winter driving:

Before starting out in snowy weather, remove the snow from the entire car so it doesn’t blow onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Make sure your mirrors, lights, brake lights and turn signals are clean.

To increase your visibility during the daylight hours, drive with your low-beam headlights illuminated.  

All passengers should be safely secured with their safety belts fastened.  Any items that may become dangerous flying projectiles during a crash should be stored in the trunk.

The driver’s hands should be properly positioned on the steering wheel, keeping in mind that during a crash, the steering column airbag may deploy.  (Check your vehicle’s owner manual for proper hand positioning.)

If you have teen drivers in your family, restrict their driving privileges until you have the opportunity to test their driving skills in an empty, snow packed or icy parking lot.   They need to understand that vehicle’s operate differently when roads are slick or snow packed.    

Watch for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, even when the rest of the road seems to be in good condition. 

Always reduce your speed and increase your following distance when poor road or weather conditions prevail.

Look farther ahead in traffic. Actions by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra seconds to react. 

When changing lanes, avoid cutting in front of trucks, which need more time and distance than passenger vehicles to stop.  Hard braking may cause a vehicle to skid. 

Never use cruise control if the roads are wet, slick or snow packed. 

Remember that four-wheel drive helps you to get going quicker, but it won't help you stop any faster. 

If your vehicle is equipped with anti-lock brakes, apply constant, firm pressure to the pedal when stopping.  You may feel or hear a thumping sound when the system is engaged.

Proper Preparation

Motorists can help keep their vehicles on the road by doing the following:

Check your battery strength. Faulty batteries cause more car starting problems than any other factor. At 0 degrees, a good battery has 35 percent less starting power.  Many automotive facilities can quickly check your battery’s power using a hand-held computer.

Keep the fuel tank at least half-full to avoid fuel-line freeze-up.

Emergency Road Kit

Each vehicle in your family should be equipped with a winter emergency road kit that contains the following:

•  Plastic container of abrasive material such as sand or salt.  (Use an empty plastic ice cream bucket to store your sand.)  

•  Small snow shovel and ice scraper

•  Flashlight with extra batteries

•  Winter grade windshield washer solvent

•  Empty coffee can filled with candles and matches (mini-furnace) 

•  Mobile phone, pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family members and emergency services

•  First-aid kit

•  Non-perishable snacks 

•  Blankets, thermal sleeping bag, boots, heavy socks, gloves, hat, and scarves to prevent frostbite and hypothermia

•  Jumper cable with safety goggles

•  Warning devices (flares or triangles)

•  Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)

•  Large plastic trash bags, newspapers, floor mats (use as insulation between layers of clothing)

•  Red scarf or flag, or folding windshield sun visor that indicates Call Police