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Winter Travel Safety Tips

The Thanksgiving Break is rapidly approaching and it is time to discuss safe travel, especially if you are expecting winter travel conditions along your route to your destination.

Should You Leave During the Break?

Before you depart, make an assessment on whether or not is is wise to do so based on the importance of the trip and the significance of the weather expected.

  • Especially with COVID-19 considerations, it might be best to stay on campus or here locally if you are not returning to your home for the rest of the semester

Winter Weather Advisory

Potentially dangerous winter weather is expected within the next 12 to 36 hours.

  • Recommendation: This requires additional planning and preparation

Winter Storm Warning

Dangerous winter weather is expected within the next 12 to 36 hours or is occurring.

  • Recommendation: Traveling in this type of weather is not advised, especially if your route will take you over high passes such as the Blue Mountains in Oregon or the Sierra Nevada Mountain in California.

Blizzard Warning

Severe weather is expected within the next 12 to 36 hours.

  • Recommendation: Do not travel!

Check for Travel Advisories

  • Check the travel advisories from the Idaho Department of Transportation 511 page:
  • 511 is also available to download as a downloadable app for your mobile device; see their website for more information
  • Check additional state department of transportation sites if you are going to be traveling outside of Idaho:

If you Must Travel

Have your car ready with an emergency supply kit.

Weather-proof your car

  • Maintain an adequate supply of antifreeze.
  • Have a windshield wiper fluid that is resilient against low temperatures.
  • Ensure your tire treads are in good shape.
  • Keep the gas tank as close to full as possible.
  • Ensure your battery, brakes, heater, oil, emergency flashers, and exhaust are in good order.

Winter Driving Tips

  • Keep your vehicle in the best possible driving condition. The lights, tires, brakes, windshield wipers, defroster, and radiator are especially important for winter driving.
  • Keep your windows clear. Don’t start driving until the windows are defrosted and clean-even if you’re going only a short distance. Keep your windshield washer reservoir filled with a non-freezing solution all winter.
  • Buckle up. All occupants are required to wear safety belts and/or shoulder straps when riding in a vehicle equipped with them.
  • When stopping, avoid sudden movements of the steering wheel and pump the brake gently. (Check your vehicle owner’s manual; if the vehicle has anti-lock brakes, you may apply steady pressure to the brake pedal.)
  • Be aware of potential icy areas such as shady spots, bridges, and overpasses. Ice may form sooner or remain on bridges and overpasses longer, since they are exposed on their undersides and are deprived of ground warmth. Snow and ice also stay longer in shaded areas.
  • Don’t pass snow plows
  • In Idaho, studded snow tires may be used from October 1 to April 30.

Watch our for “Sneaky” Winter Hazards

The winter season brings many weather events that can “sneak” up on you. These are weather hazards that cause big impacts and make travel difficult without making big news.

First Snow

The first snow of the year can often cause major problems on the road as people adjust to the poor driving conditions. Safety Tips:

  • Start slowing your car down at least three times sooner than you normally do when turning or stopping.
  • Don’t use cruise control.
  • Leave plenty of distance between you and other vehicles

Snow Squalls

There is a long history of deadly traffic accidents associated with these intense snow events that are accompanied by strong winds and a quick reduction in visibility. Safety Tips:

  • Avoid or delay motor travel until the squall passes
  • Reduce your speed, turn on your headlights, and try to exit the road

Freezing Drizzle

The fine layer of ice that forms during freezing drizzle may be hard to notice on the road, but it is one of winter’s most dangerous types of weather. Safety Tips:

  • Slow down.
  • Don’t use cruise control
  • Leave plenty of distance between you and other vehicles

Flash Freeze

Wet roads can freeze quickly at night or when there is a rapid drop in temperature behind a cold front. Safety Tips:

  • Slow down.
  • Don’t use cruise control
  • Leave plenty of distance between you and other vehicles

Dense Fog

Fog can be hazardous to drivers, mariners, and aviators and contributes to thousands of travel accidents every year. Visibility often changes quickly in fog. Safety Tips:

  • Slow down.
  • Use your low-beam headlights.
  • Leave plenty of distance between you and other vehicles.

So, that’s it. If you do travel over the break, take the time to be safe and be aware; we want you back in one piece for the Spring 2021 semester!

Additional Winter Travel Safety Resources