Winter storm Jonas has pummeled areas of the Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast leaving many people dealing with more than two feet of snow and some coastal flooding in areas. But despite the weather, there are folks who still have to travel. That means keeping yourself and others safe if you’ve got to drive in it. Here are some Traveling Mom driving safety tips to make your drive safer and easier.

Driving Safety Tips, Driving in Foul Weather, Eden Pontz, Travel Hacks

Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

Driving Safety Tips & Pre-Drive Travel Hacks

While some people may live in an area in which the local government mandates that you stay off the road unless it’s an emergency, there are plenty of places where you’ll find drivers out and about traveling despite the foul weather. Winter storm Jonas has turned out to be formidable, dropping between a foot and three feet of snow in some places, as well as causing flooding that’s making for additional complications. But whether you’re out driving on the road for business, or heading somewhere for pleasure it’s important to stay safe. Use these driving safety tips to help make sure you get to where you’re going.

Pre-Driving Travel Hacks

  • If you know it’s going to snow and you’re going to have to take your car out after it’s been blanketed, pull your windshield wipers up and out, so they don’t freeze to the windshield, making it harder to clear your windshield and get them going.
  • Take your ice scraper/brush out of the car and take it inside with you for when you need to first get into the car after it’s been covered in snow. (You’ll stay drier from the start!)
  • If you don’t need it for parking, leave the emergency break off–in case your car needs to be moved, pushed or towed.
  • Always leave at least a half-a-tank of gas in your car to help prevent condensation in the tank.

Now on to the more important stuff…

Slow Down

While you may still need to get somewhere (and probably want to get there as quickly as possible before the weather gets even worse), your actions should be the opposite of your inclination. When the weather gets bad, the U.S. Department of Transportation recommends slowing down by about 50% from the pace you’d usually be driving. Stopping, accelerating, turning—everything will need to be done more slowly, deliberately and with care. Not only that, but AAA says the normal “dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds.” You’ll likely need this extra distance if you need to stop.

Driving Safety Tips, Driving in Foul Weather, Eden Pontz, Travel Hacks

Photo Credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

To Keep In Your Trunk

  • A number of safety experts suggest keeping a bag of sand or kitty litter in your trunk. Not only does the extra weight help give your car better traction, but if needed, you can put it under your wheels to help your tires get out of icy spots.
  • A winter safety kit should also be kept in the car and should include, among other things: an ice scraper, jumper cables, tow rope, a blanket, flashlight, flares, matches and emergency candles, a small first aid kid, a portable radio, some food (think power bars), water, any needed medications and a cellphone charger and extra phone battery that’s charged up already. Be sure not to drive without a cellphone in case you need to call for help.

Watch for (Black) Ice

You don’t have to have below freezing temperatures to end up with black ice. And while it’s pretty hard to detect black ice, you can look for “pavement” areas that seem darker or duller, or you can look for other cars in front of you that are slipping and struggling. If you find yourself on an icy surface remember that as soon as you start sliding, take your foot OFF the gas pedal. Slow down as quickly as possible—but DON’T slam on the brakes. (Yes, although it’s a natural reflex, it will likely only get you sliding or spinning even more.) Instead tap or push the break lightly and quickly. Once you’re back in control, shift down to a lower gear and drive slowly as you continue on.

Driving Safety Tips, Driving in Foul Weather, Eden Pontz, Travel Hacks

Photo credit: Eden Pontz / Discovery TravelingMom

Keep it Clean and Clear

Make sure you clear your headlights, taillights and roof clean of snow, ice and anything else that could make for more hazardous driving. Keep your windshield and windows clear, and make sure your defroster and heaters are working. It’s now against the law in many states to drive with snow-built up on your roof, but plenty of drivers do it regardless, and some recent YouTube video that’s made the rounds will show you why it’s so scary and dangerous for you and anyone driving near you.

If You Find Yourself Stuck

Experts recommend you stay in your car. Hopefully you’re cellphone is working so you can call for help. Run the engine for heat, but if you want to conserve gas, experts suggest you can run the car for about 10 minutes or so each hour to maintain enough heat to stay comfortable. (Don’t forget to open one window just a bit when doing so.) A key driving safety tip — be sure there’s nothing (snow, ice or mud) blocking your exhaust pipe as it can be dangerous if carbon monoxide leaks back into your car! AAA explains your vehicle, “provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you,” adding you shouldn’t try walking during a storm because it’s easy to lose sight of your car and become lost or disoriented. If it’s nighttime, you can keep one of the car’s interior dome or mirror lights on as they use little electricity and make it easier to be seen. Lastly, AAA recommends you “tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a clot at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress.” Further insulate yourself from the cold using the blanket in your emergency kit, staying close to each other and even covering yourself with floor mats if needed.

Bottom line—if you can—when the weather is bad, stay off the road. If you have the opportunity to take public transport-do it! But if you must drive, take important steps both before and while you’re on the road to ensure that you and those around you make it safely to your destination!