Driving Tips When the Weather Outside is Frightful

Take it slow and steady, and put safety first.


When the weather outside is frightful, it's smart to take extra precautions before embarking on a family car trip. Pack these winter driving tips for a safe journey.

Allow for extra time. Snow and ice on the roads may mean you'll have to travel below posted speed limits for at least part of the trip, so take this into consideration when creating your timetable.

Check your tire tread with this easy trick. Insert a penny into the tread groove with Lincoln's head down. If you cannot see the top of Lincoln's head then your tread is fine. If the top of Lincoln's head is visible, then it's time to get new tires.

Get a pre-trip tune up. Check the headlights, brake lights, indicator lights, oil, tire pressure, belts and hoses, brake fluid, antifreeze fluid and battery. Ensure that infant car seats, toddler car seats, and booster seats are properly installed. 

Be prepared for the "what if" scenario. Make sure your license, registration and insurance documents are up to date and readily accessible in your car. If you belong to an auto club, program the emergency phone number into your smartphone. Don't belong to an auto club? Download the free Honk app, which provides on-demand 24/7 roadside assistance.

Get a good night's sleep.  Making sure you're well rested so you can stay alert on the road. Plan regular breaks during long road trips. 

Plan your route in advance. Use a GPS app such as MapQuest or Waze. Be sure to check traffic reports and weather conditions before you leave. 

Keep tabs on the weather. Be sure to check traffic reports and weather conditions before you leave. The Weather on Wheels app not only tracks the forecast along your route, it advises when it's time to take a detour or break until the storm passes.

Keep kids occupied in the backseat. Unhappy kids can be a distraction and a cause of stress, so keep them busy with these classic car games and free printable car and travel activities.

Don't get caught on empty. Keep your gas tank at least half full.

Keep it steady. When driving on snow or ice, don't use cruise control. Accelerate and decelerate slowly to hold traction and avoid skids. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on slippery roads, so give yourself extra distance to slow down for a toll booth or stoplight. 

Stay with your car. If you become snow-bound, remain with your vehicle until help arrives. Your car provides shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Never try to walk in a severe storm. 

Know when to bow to Mother Nature. If travel becomes untenable, then you may have to find a place to stay until it's safe to get back on the road. I like the Hotels.com and HotelTonight apps for last-minute hotel booking at an affordable price.

Stay up to date on the latest family vacations getaway ideas, travel tips, and deals. Sign up for my free family vacations newsletter today!