Do You Have the Right Tires for Winter Weather? Maybe Not.

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • 24% of weather-related crashes happen on snowy, slushy or icy roads.
  • More than 1,300 people are killed and over 116,800 people are injured in crashes on icy, slushy or snowy pavement annually.
  • Crashes during snowfall or sleet lead to nearly 900 fatalities and almost 76,000 injuries each year.

With most of the nation under threat from extreme cold, blizzards, severe thunderstorms, and tornado warnings, leaving the house seems like a risky proposition. But hunkering down with a blanket and a cozy fire isn't an option for most of us. If you have to brave the weather to navigate icy or snowy roads, it's crucial to be prepared. Every year, 24% of weather-related crashes happen on slushy, snowy, or icy roads, and 15% happen during sleet and snowfall.

But fear not! You can stay safe and enjoy the winter wonderland with the proper knowledge and precautions. In this article, we'll explore the importance of snow tires, tire maintenance tips, driving advice for winter storms, and what to do if you find yourself stranded on the road.

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Man in orange parka putting snow chains on a tire.

Image: SolStock, iStock

Why snow tires matter

Imagine your car as a trusty steed traversing the snowy plains of winter. Just as a horse needs the right shoes, your vehicle needs the right tires to conquer icy roads. Despite the name, all-weather tires aren’t always your best bet during snowy conditions. Snow tires, especially designed for winter weather, are the safest choice. Snow tires are made with softer rubber, providing better traction in snowy conditions. Regular all-season tires can harden in cold weather, robbing you of the grip needed to stay safe on slippery roads.

When buying a new car, many people overlook their tires. Don't make that mistake. Snow tires can make all the difference. The best time to put them on your car is in October, but if you still need to, it's never too late to switch to snow tires. Remember, it's better late than never—especially if it can prevent an accident in the upcoming weeks.

Tire maintenance tips for winter safety

  • Get winter tires: Summer tires won't cut it on icy roads. Consider having two sets of tires for extreme climates and rotating them as needed.
  • Keep tires properly inflated: Check your vehicle's manual to find the recommended tire pressure and ensure your tires meet the specified level. Temperature fluctuations can affect air pressure.
  • Consider snow chains: Snow chains may be necessary for certain roads in snowy regions. Practice putting them on in good weather to avoid struggles in a blizzard.
  • Engage your 4WD: If your vehicle has four-wheel drive, use it. However, remember that even with 4WD, driving cautiously is essential.

Driving tips for winter storms

The best advice during a winter storm is to avoid driving unless absolutely necessary. If you must venture out, here are some crucial tips:

  • Check road conditions: Stay informed about road conditions through local weather updates, TV stations, or smartphone apps. Knowledge is power when it comes to avoiding dangerous situations.
  • Service your vehicle: Prioritize regular vehicle maintenance and winterize it early in the season. Make sure your heater, windshield defroster, brakes, battery, and other vital components are in good working order.
  • Keep an emergency kit: Always have an emergency vehicle kit in your car. It should include essentials like a flashlight, tools, nonperishable food, water, a first aid kit, and more.
  • Monitor fluids and fuel: Regularly check windshield washer fluid, tire air pressure, and fuel levels. Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid getting stranded.

What to do if you get stranded

If you find yourself stranded on the road during winter, follow these steps to stay safe:

  • Stay by your vehicle: Don't wander on foot in winter conditions; it's easy to get lost.
  • Use flares: Attract attention by lighting flares at each end of your vehicle, but keep them at a safe distance.
  • Check the exhaust pipe: Make sure the exhaust pipe isn't blocked by snow or other obstructions. If it's clear, run your engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour. If the pipe is blocked, clear it before running the heater to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Stay warm: Layer on warm clothes and blankets to retain heat.
  • Ventilation: Keep a window slightly open to prevent snow and ice from sealing you inside the vehicle.
  • Keep hydrated: Carry water or use hard candy to moisten your mouth while waiting for help.
  • Stay active: Move around at least once an hour; clap your hands or stomp your feet to maintain circulation.

Winter weather can be a challenge, but with the right knowledge and preparation, you can enjoy its beauty while staying safe on the road. Keep icy conditions from catching you off guard; equip yourself with the right tires, maintenance know-how, and safety measures to navigate winter confidently.

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Disclaimer: Portions of this article were assisted by automation technology. All content therein has been augmented, thoroughly edited, and fact-checked by our in-house editorial staff of human safety experts.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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