Security and Safety

Your Guide to Road Trip Safety: Winter Edition

By Kristy Alpert 10.1.17

Icy roads and dicey driving conditions don’t paint a pretty picture for the perfect road trip across the Lone Star State. However, with fall colors in full swing, college football games calling, and the holidays coming, it’d be a shame not to hit the road this season.

“Winter road trips can present unique challenges, particularly for people who live in parts of Texas where snow and ice are uncommon,” says David Glessner, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) in Austin. “Charting your course, planning ahead, and allowing extra time to reach your destination are great ways to avoid unforeseen delays and stress.”

Texas’ fickle weather presents challenges for drivers when the seasons change; temperatures can fluctuate from warm to freezing over just a short period of time, causing roadway conditions to worsen with little to no warning. The Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Public Safety both recommend that drivers think through their trip when packing up their vehicles during winter.

Plan Ahead

Successful winter road trips start way before the keys enter the ignition, since even familiar and frequently driven routes could change due to weather. Glessner recommends drivers think through multiple aspects of the route before starting the journey, from considering weather forecasts and researching recent road closures to figuring out the best time to depart to avoid holiday and event traffic.

“Being well-rested, organized, and informed will give you the added peace of mind that can help make your trip more relaxed,” Glessner adds. “If hazardous weather is expected, consider delaying your trip and leaving during a safer time, or just staying home altogether. TxDOT offers a road conditions hotline (800-452-9292) and road condition information online at drivetexas.org, so drivers can check for delays and plan alternate routes before getting behind the wheel.”

Prepare for the Worst

Gather together items for a road trip emergency kit, which will help keep you and your loved ones safe and warm in case anything goes wrong. Use this checklist when preparing your winter emergency car kit:

  • Blankets
  • Extra warm clothes
  • Rain jacket
  • Ice scraper
  • Flares
  • Set of matches
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight 
  • First aid kit
  • Tow chains
  • Fully charged cell phone
  • Snacks
  • Water (approximately 64 ounces per person)
  • Batteries
  • Spare tire; ensure it’s properly inflated
  • Tire jack; ensure this is in good working order before loading it into your vehicle
  • Basic tool kit 
  • Collapsible shovel

Pack Properly

It’s not only what you pack for your road trip that will keep you safe, but how you pack it. “The most important thing to remember when packing for a road trip is to make sure all items in the vehicle are secure and not obstructing your field of vision through any windows or mirrors,” Glessner advises.

When packing your vehicle, make sure heavy items are secured in the cabin area of the vehicle or in the trunk at the lowest possible positioning, as these items can become dangerous in a crash, possibly causing serious injury to the occupants of the vehicle if heavy objects fly around the interior.

Perform a Pre-check

The last step before starting your winter road trip is to perform one final check of your vehicle. This will ensure you’re starting off the trip with a charged battery, properly inflated tires, functioning windshield wipers, and a tank full of gas.

Phone a Friend

Notify a friend, neighbor, or family member of the route you’ll be taking to your destination so that, in the case of an emergency (e.g., a breakdown, blown tire, accident, etc.), someone with knowledge of the trip will be able to alert the appropriate responders to your location. But remember, in an emergency, always dial 911 first.

Winter in Texas is all about fun, family, and festive outings, and there’s no better way to take in the season’s best than a road trip with your loved ones. Winter road trips require drivers to be alert to changing highway conditions, so remember to take frequent breaks to avoid becoming fatigued.

Topping off the fuel tank when it reaches half a tank is one way to take more breaks. Making sure to fuel your adventure with auto insurance from Texas Farm Bureau Insurance Companies will ensure that the only tough decision you’ll have to make on the road is where you want to end up.

Coverage and discounts are subject to qualifications and policy terms and may vary by situation. 

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