How To Get Out Of A Snow Drift And Other Winter Driving Tips

Dec 22, 2021 | Car Accidents, Driving Safety

It only takes one heavy snowstorm to bring a city to a standstill. When a big storm hits, it’s best to cancel your plans and stay home until emergency crews can get the streets cleared. But what happens if you absolutely have to go out and your vehicle is stuck in snow? Do you know how to safely extricate yourself and stay moving?

Here are some tips to help us all navigate challenging winter weather conditions.


It’s all about traction. Let’s say your car is buried in snow, wheels spinning on snow and ice with no progress. There’s some preparation required before you can blast off, and that includes clearing a path in front, back, and under your car, ideally with a snow shovel. At the very least, you want to break up the ice around the wheels and make a rougher surface for better traction. If you have access to such things, you might try some rock salt, kitty litter, plywood, or even cardboard to help give the tires something to grip.

Two other important steps to take before trying to make your escape: Make sure the tailpipe isn’t blocked with snow (to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning inside the car) and turn off traction control. You want all the traction you can get.

Don’t floor it. Many drivers seem to think they can pull out of their snow cave by sheer force of acceleration. But revving it up can be dangerous; if you do break free, your chances of controlling a high-speed spinout are not good. Better technique involves moving forward and back in low gear, giving just a little gas and straightening the wheel as you go to improve traction. If you’re still spinning to no effect, try using the brake and giving a little gas at the same time to reduce the spin, or rapidly shifting from forward to reverse and back to rock your way out of the drift. But be careful not to try either one of these methods for more than a few seconds, as they can damage the brakes or the transmission if overused. Slow, steady progress is the safest way to get moving again.

Still stuck?  You still have options. You could try letting a little air out of your tires. Underinflated (but not flat) tires can provide more traction, provided you don’t drive on them very far. You could ask kindly, in-shape bystanders to give you a little push, while being extremely careful not to put them in harm’s way. Or you could call a tow truck. In any event, be sure to reactivate traction control and put air back in your tires before embarking on your trip.


Although winter mountain driving can have its anxious moments, you can reduce your risk of an accident or getting stranded by following a few common-sense principles. The most important:

  1. Plan ahead. Get the latest information about weather and road conditions from the state travel-planning website or other reliable sources before you head out. Never assume that a particular road is “always open” or that plows will have taken care of any overnight accumulations. Have a backup route in mind in the event that you run into closures or heavy delays. Make sure windows and mirrors are clean, wipers and defroster and heat working, and visibility optimal before setting out.
  2. Slow down. Most winter accidents are a result of drivers going too fast for the conditions. Braking takes longer than it does on dry roads, and all-wheel drive doesn’t mean you won’t slide on ice. Whenever possible, use lower gears (rather than constant braking) to help slow you down in steep descents, and give other drivers plenty of room to react to changing conditions ahead.
  3. Bring the right gear. Emergency supplies are a must, just in case you do run into gridlock. Or a snowdrift. Food and water, warm clothing and cell phone, an emergency kit, hazard lights, flashlight, a snow shovel, ice scraper and sunglasses, blankets and gloves — you know the drill.
  4. Watch the skies — and the truckers.  Don’t be fooled by patches of sunshine and dry roads; weather can change dramatically from one side of a mountain to another, as anyone who’s been through the Eisenhower Tunnel in January can verify. Pay attention to changing conditions and what the commercial long-haul truckers are doing; if they’re all pulling off the road, maybe they know something about what’s ahead that you don’t.
  5. Adapt. Build extra time into your itinerary so you don’t have to press on in treacherous conditions. Pull off at rest stops or food stops where you can recharge your internal battery and unclench from the wheel. If the situation seems to be deteriorating rapidly, consider another route or a break for the night. The road will still be there tomorrow, after the storm has dissipated.


For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Fort Collins, Greeley, Thornton, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation.  Please contact the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night at 800-716-9032 for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.