Safety and Training

30 Days of Preparing for Severe Winter Weather Day 20: What to do if You Run Off the Road

The picture shows a black Lincoln Town car slid off the road and stuck in the snow.

When roads are slick, it is highly probable you can run right off the road. Depending on how steep of an embankment or ditch you end up in, you might be able to get yourself out. Before attempting to get your car back on the road, call for help. (Be careful attempting these 10 tips, as you can endanger yourself to suffering from overexertion.) Try your insurance company, your local emergency crew or law enforcement, a friend or relative or even a tow truck. If you have someone coming for help, stay in your car and keep warm. Tie a brightly colored cloth, bandana or distress flag to your antenna so rescuers can see you. In an extreme circumstance, you can try to get your car back on the road. Follow these 10 tips:

The picture shows a black Lincoln Town car slid off the road and stuck in the snow.
In an extreme circumstance, you can try to get your car back on the road.
  1. Do not over spin your tires. You will dig yourself a deeper hole.
  2. Shovel the snow out from around your tires and clear the exhaust pipe of any snow.
  3. Liberally apply sand, gravel or kitty litter in front, behind and around your tires.
  4. Keep your tires straight. Cocked wheels will not gain traction and will even dig your car deeper into the snow.
  5. If you have 2×6 wood planks, put them up against the rubber of your drive tires to try to get traction. Your car’s floor mats will also help in a pinch.
  6. Using a low gear, slowly apply the gas while slightly depressing the brake. This forces the tires to stop over spinning, giving you more torque to pull out.
  7. Letting a little air out of the tires may give you more traction.
  8. “Rock” the car by driving forward, then backwards, back and forth until you gain enough traction and movement to get back on the road.
  9. For a front wheel drive vehicle only, you may turn the wheels 45 degrees to each side a few times. However, this can lead to digging you in deeper, so be sure to accelerate slowly.
  10. Get someone to help push you out.

Before trying anything, you must not panic. Remember that over compensating your steering wheel and spinning you tires will get your car stuck even deeper. Remain calm and collected. If you cannot get out and help will not be able to come for a while, you will need to settle in. Come back tomorrow to learn how to stay warm, safe and hydrated while you wait out a winter storm in your car.

Do you have any other tips to getting a car back on the road? Share them with us in the comment section.

[suzanne]

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Comments (3)

  1. If you got stuck while going forward, many times the rear tires may be on good footing and the best option is to back out (if the car is rear wheel drive). Before you do anything, take a deep breath and calm down and (if you can do so safely) get out of the car and assess the conditions. See if the front wheels are pointing in the same direction and which way you need to turn them to straighten them out. If they’re not pointing in the same direction, you’re not going anywhere. 🙂

    If you can, deploy sand, gravel, matts or anything available without putting yourself at risk or over-exertion. The Reverse gear provides you with a consistent steady controllable torque and if you can work the pedals with both feet to prevent spinning your wheels – you will be much more in control of the traction and hopefully can get yourself unstuck.

  2. As a long haul truck driver I have found that while traveling, your tires get warm from the friction of the road. After parking on packed snow/ice, even in a parking lot, a pocket will form under the tires leaving an indentation and the tires to spin. The fastest remedy is bleach, so carry a small (quart size) bottle of bleach in your emergency box (keep it upright). Just pour over the tires (drive tires) and allow to puddle in front of the tires.

  3. Be leery of those who stop to offer help; if you are a CHL, make sure you are carrying. There are predators out there who hit the highways at the first sign of bad weather in order to take what they want from stranded travelers. If possible, extract yourself; a cell phone is essential. Make sure you have a tow service rider on your insurance policy so you can call (I’m not advertising for them, but something like AAA can be very helpul, for example). I have a couple of trucks and a small family SUV; I carry a bag with a hand operated cable winch, 50 ft of aircraft grade steel cable, and several pulleys. Set low against a stump or rock or even a sign post and you can pump yourself out, if necessary.

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