Winter Safety for Travel


All drivers should take extra safety precautions while driving in winter weather conditions.

According to the NHTSA, in 2019, there were 440 fatal crashes and approximately 33,000 injury crashes that occurred in wintry conditions.

Before you hit the road, prepare your vehicle to stay safe.

Stock up: Carry an insulated coat, winter boots, gloves, hat, extra water, snacks, a heavy blanket and/or sleeping bag, ice scraper, compact snow shovel, jumper cables, flashlight or headlamp, road flares or small hazard cones, essential medicines, first aid kit, and a spare phone charger.

Fuel up: Make sure your gas tank or battery is full.

Have a backup: Check to make sure your vehicle has a functional spare tire, learn how to install it safely, and understand its limitations (not all vehicles are equipped with the same type of spare and jack). Temporary spare tires (often called “donuts”) are generally not designed to travel at speeds above 50mph or be used for distances beyond 50 miles. Practice spare tire installation at home during non-winter conditions. If you don’t feel comfortable changing a flat or conditions are too hazardous, a service like AAA can provide roadside assistance if you have a membership. Some auto insurance plans also include a roadside assistance option.

Inspect tread: Gauge your tire tread seasonally, or have a tire technician check, to make sure you have adequate traction.

Gauge pressure: Check your tire pressure manually before every trip out of town. The correct operating pressure (usually measured in PSI) for your tires should be listed on the tire sidewall. Don’t rely on the accuracy of your car’s tire sensors (if you have them), especially in cold conditions. These sensors can be incorrect. Periodically check with a hand-held tire pressure gauge. If you add air, check the pressure manually to avoid over-inflation.

Check first and leave early: Always check the weather forecast and traffic conditions before hitting the road. Give yourself extra time.

Postpone: Poor road conditions ahead? Consider postponing until the roads are safer, if possible. Sometimes, even waiting just a few hours for road crews to plow and de-ice can make a big difference.

Once you’re on the road, drive smart.

Remove all snow: Clear your vehicle’s windows, headlights, taillights, and roof to maximize visibility and prevent hazards for other drivers.

Take it easy: When driving on snow and ice, accelerate more slowly, reduce top speed (especially when turning or cornering), ease on the brakes, and greatly increase following distance to reduce risk of an accident.

AWD and four-wheel drive: An AWD vehicle may accelerate and turn better during wintry conditions without losing grip, but can’t stop any faster. Always stay multiple car lengths behind the vehicle in front of you.

Visit the Colorado Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for additional resources to help you prepare for winter travel. Stay safe!