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Safety tips to prepare your car for winter driving

Posted at 7:18 PM, Oct 18, 2020

BILLINGS — Winter driving conditions have arrived in Billings, making for challenging travel across area roads. It's important to have a vehicle in proper condition packed with some essential items to make sure you arrive at your destination safely.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, planning and preventative maintenance is key when it comes to winter driving. The government agency prepared awinter driving tips document with information about how to prepare for cold conditions.

The first thing to do is make sure your vehicle is in working order, the NHTSA writes. Make sure the vehicle is caught up on regular maintenance and have a mechanic check for leaks, and worn hoses or belts.

The start of the season is a good time to check the vehicle's wiper blades and top off the wiper fluid reservoir. Check to make sure the front and rear defrosters are working properly.

It is also good practice to check the tire pressure, as it may have dropped along with the recent drop in temperature and top off the tires if necessary.

Installing a set of snow tires can increase the vehicle's grip on the road. Regardless of whether you have them, the NHTSA recommends inspecting the tires once a month or before a long trip. The tread should be at least 2/32 of an inch or greater on all tires.

Once the vehicle is road-worthy, it's important to know how it handles in winter weather driving conditions. The NHTSA recommends familiarizing yourself with the vehicle's handling by practicing in snowy conditions in an empty parking lot. Read over the vehicle's manual to learn about specific anti-lock brakes or stabilization technology you may have available.

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Snow and slush coat the road surface of Grand Avenue in Billings Sunday.

The NHTSA prepared a list of things to keep in the vehicle to help with winter driving-related tasks or emergencies.


  • Snow shovel, broom, and ice scraper
  • Abrasive material like sand or kitty litter
  • Jumper cables, flashlight, warning devices like flares or emergency markers
  • Blankets
  • Cell phone charger, water, food, necessary medication (for longer or less populated trips)

When driving it's important to go slow. It takes the vehicle longer so stop on slick roadways. Increase your following distance and indicate turns beforehand to give the vehicles behind enough of a chance to slow down.

Allow plenty of time to get to your destination. Travel may take longer in adverse conditions.

For more winter driving information, view the NHTSA winter driving tips document by clicking here.