With snow on the ground, frozen lakes and warm homes, Wisconsin winter can be beautiful. However, it can also be quite dangerous. Roads may be icy. Snow may cause lack of visibility. Car breakdowns are also more common due to the harsh weather conditions.

Should you find yourself in a car accident or broke down on the side of the road during winter weather, having a winter emergency kit packed in your car can be extremely helpful. In some cases, having a well-stocked emergency kit may mean the difference between death and survival.

If you haven’t already done so, you should begin putting together an emergency kit for your next road trip. What you include in your emergency kit will depend on where you drive, how far your drive and if you are traveling with family. In any case, here are the basic essentials every winter driving emergency kit should include.

First Aid Kit

A basic first aid kit should contain bandages, antiseptic towels, gauze and a first aid manual. The Red Cross also advises drivers to carry the following:

  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Roller bandages
  • Tweezers
  • Over-the-counter painkillers
  • Blanket
  • Latex gloves
  • Thermometer
  • Cold compress
  • Scissors
  • One-way breathing barrier

Car Tools

If you are stranded on a rural road because your car broke down, having a few basic automotive tools in the back of your car may help you get back on the road. Many of these tools come stock in new cars, but it never hurts to check your cargo and make sure you have what you need to get out of a tough situation.

A basic emergency kit should include jumper cables, a tire jack, a spare tire and a screwdriver, but you don’t need to stop there. If you are travelling on back roads and more rural areas, consider packing a shovel, an ice scraper, a wrench and other useful tools.

Extras

In addition to car tools and a first aid kit, your basic emergency kit should include other items that will help you stay warm, hydrated and enhance visibility. In your emergency kit, pack a flashlight with extra batteries, a large bottle of water and a few snacks. You may also want to pack a heavy blanket in case you have to wait for a tow.

If you are traveling greater distances, consider bringing enough food to last 24 hours. Also, keep a fully charged cell phone charger in your emergency kit in case your cell phone loses its charge. Lastly, you may want road flares or reflective cones to help other drivers safely pass by.

Don’t Forget…

In addition to packing a basic emergency kit, don’t forget to take a few precautions before hitting the road. Check your tire pressure, oil and car battery to make sure your car is safe to drive. Also take time to fully charge your cell phone before leaving your house. Finally, dress for the weather. Wear a heavy winter coat, boots, gloves and a warm hat. Remember, if you are in a car wreck or stranded on the side of the road, you will be without heat.

Driving in Wisconsin during the wintry weather can be stressful. The roads are slick, visibility is poor, and morning and evening commutes are dark. To stay safe this winter, I want to share with you a few simple safe driving guidelines that I commonly share with family, friends and clients.

1. Wait Until Conditions Improve

Bad weather comes and goes. Even the most severe winter storms eventually let up. If you see that bad winter weather is on the radar, consider postponing your trip until the road conditions improve. Allow time for snow plows, law enforcement and other emergency responders to clear the roadways.

2. Tell Others Your Travel Plans

If you must get on the road during wintry weather, tell someone else about your planned route, and your expected arrival time. Have a fully charged cell phone and avoid backroads. Should something happen, you and your vehicle will be easier to find.

3. Clear Off Snow And Ice

Before you turn on your car, clear snow and ice away from your car’s windows, headlights, tail lights, roof and hood. Not only will this improve visibility, but it will prevent ice from sliding off your car and causing a road hazard.

4. Drive With Caution

When the roads are icy and wet, be sure to allow extra time for travel. The majority of winter car accidents in Wisconsin are caused by drivers going too fast. Even the posted speed limit, which applies to ideal travel conditions, may be too fast for current conditions. In addition to slowing down, try to keep a safe following distance from the car in front of you.

5. Turn On Your Headlights

All drivers should turn on their car’s low-beam headlights when weather conditions make it difficult to see objects ahead. Even during the daylight, it may be difficult to see other cars on the road. Turn on your headlights to improve your visibility and help people see you coming.

6. Stay In Control

Sudden braking can cause you to lose control of your car. When you are driving in wintry conditions in Wisconsin, use your brakes carefully. Begin braking early, and avoid slamming the brakes. Take turns slowly, and avoid sharp maneuvers. Lastly, never use cruise control. Even four-wheel drive vehicles require additional time to stop in snowy and icy conditions.

7. Keep A Safe Distance From Snow Plows

You should always keep a safe distance behind a snow plow. If you decide to pass, be extra cautious. Plows often create a cloud of snow that can obscure visibility. Plus, road conditions ahead of the plow are typically worse.

8. Be Mindful Of Commercial Trucks

In addition to snow plows, keep a safe distance from trucks. Pieces of snow or ice have been known to slide off the top of commercial trucks, creating hazardous conditions for cars following close behind. In addition, the large tires kick up snow and ice and can affect visibility.

9. Watch For Winter Weather Advisories

Take note of winter storm advisories and warnings posted along major highways and drive accordingly. Winter storms often have significant impact on the conditions of the road. Avoid driving in winter conditions if possible.

10. Keep Track Of Your Location

Keep an eye on your location using crossroads and key landmarks. If you are in a car accident or become stranded, you’ll be be able to describe your location to law enforcement.

Winter car accidents in Wisconsin are common, but practicing safe winter driving will help you avoid an accident and possible injury. Unfortunately, some drivers may not be as careful as you.

If you are injured by another driver’s negligence, contact a Wisconsin personal injury attorney to learn more about how you can make a full financial recovery.

Natasha Misra

I am dedicated to helping people who have suffered injuries in accidents which were not their fault. Born and raised in Milwaukee, I come from a family of medical professionals. Although I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer, my background has helped me understand and represent individuals injured in accidents.