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Driving a Car in Winter Traffic: The Cold, Hard Truth

Driving a Car in Winter Traffic: The Cold, Hard Truth

When it comes to driving a car through winter traffic in some of the nation’s coldest cities, like Chicago or Milwaukee, people seem to have a lot to say.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


Some drivers will share tips on driving a car through the snow. Others may tell you to avoid the potholes that pop up after every snowfall. 

Risk management professionals will remind motorists to drive slowly, to make sure they have a blanket in the trunk, and to fully charge their cellphone battery. The cautious want everybody to just stay home!

When winter traffic hits, we may not want to drive but face no choice. Some of us have to get work no matter how the weather looks outside.

When the capabilities of man are tested with a negative windchill, so are man’s machines – including automobiles! Most engines are capable of withstanding subzero temperatures. They are designed to do so.

However, when the temperature dips, older engines may have trouble starting up. 

And if it’s icy outside on top of it, your tires better be in good shape if you want to make it to your destination without incident.

These are the cold hard truths about winter traffic driving.

What are Some Tips for Driving a Car in Winter Traffic?

Good neighbors share tips on how to stay safe while driving a car in winter traffic

For example, the best advice is that if you don’t have to schlep out into the snow, rain, sleet, and slush, then don’t. Get cozy at home; stay in your pajamas! You can have a video call instead. 

If hibernating isn’t an option, then you have to take extreme precautions before battling the elements. 

If there is snow, wear boots. If there is windchill, wear a scarf. If there is ice, salt your driveway. People may want to skimp on the safety, but it’s only asking disaster statistically speaking.

Instead, people should think wisely. For example, if your car goes into a tailspin while driving through winter traffic, what are you going to do?

No, panic is not the answer!  Counter steer to gain control; brake lightly. The trick is to remain calm. You’re still in control. If you freak out, you could crash into the median or another car. 

Another tip is to make sure your car is winter ready. When you hear this from mechanics and the weatherman on the news, it isn’t just to drive up sales on all-weather tires and jumper cables (which you should get by the way). No, they are trying to help people stay safe.

Your car, especially if older, may need be to winterized. The tires can be changed. The fluids can be checked. You have to make sure your engine cooling and antifreeze levels are in good shape, too.

Driving Your Car in Winter Traffic and Street Parking

In Chicago, another winter traffic tip for driving your car is to make a parking plan. If you’re neighborhood has street parking, the parking situation might get slippery after a blizzard. Whoever shovels a spot supposedly has “dibs” on it.

In the olden days, before city ordinance forbade it, people would leave chairs, buckets, or whatever they could find, to mark their spot. It still happens now and then, but the Chicago tradition is fading. Regardless, you have to plan for where you will park your car during a blizzard.

You might even remember a different city tradition, one that exists across the United States, which is ticketing cars (or towing cars) that are left parked on designated routes after an inch or two of snow.

If you don’t pay attention to where you are parking your car before a snowstorm, you might wake up to find a ticket or that it’s been towed!  Good luck taking the bus to the impound lot to retrieve it after snowfall!

When it comes to tips about driving a car, most advice is common sense. Then again, when snow falls on the roads, it seems like common sense goes out the frosted window!

What Speed is Good for Driving a Car in the Winter?

One obvious tip about driving a car in winter traffic would be to slow down when the road conditions don’t allow for safe travel at the posted speed limit.

In fact, it is possible to get a ticket or fine for “driving too fast for conditions.”  If a road is normally under a speed limit of 45 MPH, you may find cars driving a lot slower, even 5 or 10 mph, during hazardous conditions like white outs, drifting snow, and heavy winds. 

People with new cars (or new all-weather tires or snow chains) should remember is that not everybody feels as confident driving through the snowy roads as they do. 

Do not ride these old cars bumper to bumper during blizzards, especially not on a road like Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.

A lot can go wrong when driving on snowy or icy roads. Sometimes what are the safest roads on a pleasant day become the most dangerous on a snowy one. 

A quaint neighborhood four-way stop sign can turn into a slippery, sliding mess when cars try to brake on roads that haven’t been cleared. Those little fender-benders might not cause a lot damage, but they certainly aren’t convenient!

To stay safe, drive your car slowly when taking on winter traffic.

Preparing to Drive Your Car in Winter Traffic for a Road Trip

What could be more fun than driving your car to a winter resort and beating the winter traffic?

Skiing, sledding, hunting, walks in the woods – all of this is part of the charm of a mid-west winter. To get there, you’re going to have to drive a bit, especially if you’re in the city of Chicago or the suburbs. 

When you want to plan for a winter road trip, there are a lot of tasks to put on that to-do list.

Make sure your car has everything you need to stay safe while driving through winter traffic. The roads will be treacherous at best, so you must be prepared. 

What’s in a Winter Traffic Driving Car Kit?

What’s in a kit for winter traffic car driving?  You can imagine the basics – flashlights, batteries, first-aid kits, a swiss army knife, perhaps appropriate doses of medicines (inhalers, Epi-pens, etc.). You can include some basic road repair equipment like jumper cables, a jack, a screw driver, a wrench. 

You might need deicer or an air pump, too!

If you will be traveling through areas where it would take some time to reach you if you were to have an issue, you should also bring snacks, water, blankets, and whatever else it would take to make it through a few hours (or longer) in the blistering cold.

Take your car to a mechanic for an oil change and inspection before the trip. 

A regular oil change is never a bad idea. It’s actually great to do it right before a road trip because you can ask the mechanic to check out your car to identify any hazards.

If there is some problem with your car that would make driving long distances in the dead of winter dangerous, then you either need to fix those problems, rent a car, use a friend’s car, or stay home.

Some places are going to require you to dress those tires in snow chains or snow tires with studs. The laws vary by state.

The chains have to be taken off before driving on roads that have already been plowed. Think twice before deciding to set up and take off chains multiple times if the weather is very cold. Bring gloves. Frozen fingers will do you no good out there in the wilderness. 

If the weather is especially bad, then perhaps you should reschedule your winter road trip. It isn’t going to be much fun if you don’t arrive safely in the first place.

Finally, read up a bit on what to do if your car has problems when driving through winter city traffic. 

If you know how to dig yourself out of an avalanche, an avalanche won’t be such a problem. If you know how to avoid them altogether, you’ll never have to worry about it. 

The same can be said for a dead battery, a blown-out tire, or slipping and sliding on old country roads.

How to Handle Ice when Driving Your Car in Winter Traffic 

Winter traffic driving can take a toll on your car and on you.

Check the following in your car before heading out on the winter roads: heating, lights, battery, antifreeze levels, windshield washer blades and fluids, brakes, tires, defroster, and oil. 

Your mood and alertness level also need to be assessed before taking to the snow-covered highways.

Don’t drive when you’re tired, upset, or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Your reaction time maybe delayed, or you could find yourself unable to focus. Driving in winter city traffic requires you to be 100% alert at all times.

If your car isn’t up to the challenge, or you aren’t as the driver, then perhaps you should consider an alternative mode of transportation: ride sharing, walking (if safe to do so), calling a cab, or taking public transportation.

Is It Safe to Drive a Car when Snowing?

When winter traffic settles in on the city, people often ask “Is It safe to be driving a car when it’s snowing?”

Safety is relative. You could do everything right and still end up in an accident due to icy roads. You could also be an aggressive driver behind the wheel and get home safely without issue. Part of the equation is risk; part is luck. 

Driving in the snow is generally not as safe as driving when there isn’t snow. This is true especially if roads aren’t cleared of snow and ice, there is no salt on the ground to melt ice, the car you are driving isn’t prepared for winter roads, or you have a difficult time driving during inclement weather.

Driving in the snow isn’t recommended if it can be avoided!  Then again, a little dusting or flurries can be taken on by drivers with cars that are up for the challenge. 

By the way, roads can be quite beautiful with a little snow, but they are more dangerous. Don’t let the beautiful scenery distract you.

Driving an Old Car During a Blizzard

Winter traffic car driving all comes down to safety and dependability.

Unfortunately, old cars often provide neither in a snowstorm, blizzard, or drop in temperatures. 

The old transmission can’t find the gear. The battery can’t get the juices going. The brakes aren’t really working how they normally do – yikes!  That is a dangerous situation.

How many people fear blizzards and subzero temperatures because they know their car just can’t take it?  There are days when even brand-new cars struggle to turn over due to the frigid temperatures. This is worse in old cars.

If this is hitting close to home, then perhaps you need to think about upgrading your vehicle. 

The good news is that you can call a local junkyard to pick up your car. They will tow it away and even offer cash money. The car will be recycled when it is sold for parts. It’s win-win.

If you drive a lot during the winter, this plan is more a must than a wish. Driving is an important part of your day, even when it requires driving a car through winter traffic. It would be a lot safer if your car were up to snuff.

Driving in Winter City Traffic:  The Sun will Come Out Tomorrow

This conversation about winter traffic presented various tips on how to prepare a car for winter driving and how to avoid a potentially dangerous situation.

Remember that when the days are dark and gray, the sun will come out again. Every Chicago winter is followed by a beautiful Chicago spring!