This time of year often includes fun winter activities and gathering with family and friends. That means that many people need to drive, often great distances, in snow and ice. Though most people arrive safely to their destination, the road conditions at this time of year can raise the possibility of a car crash.

Here in South Dakota, people know all too well that they could get into a car accident because of dangerous roads due to winter weather. Luckily, if you need to drive in snow or ice, there are ways to keep you and your loved ones safe. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says there are steps you can take to prepare your car as well as changes to your driving habits that will help.

What to do for your car in the winter

If you know you have to drive to visit family, you should have your car serviced before you go. This can stop problems before they start. Consider putting snow tires on your car, but at the very least, make sure your tires have good tread to maintain traction and avoid sliding. If you’re in the market for a new car, look at models that come with an anti-lock brake system, which can also put a stop to sliding.

What to carry in your car in the winter

The NHSTA says that the following items can help you handle a lot of problems that come with winter driving.

  • Ice scraper
  • Jumper cables
  • Flashlight
  • Flares or warning signs
  • Cat litter or sand for traction
  • Blankets
  • Water and food
  • GPS or smartphone with a mapping application

How to drive in the winter

Using safe driving habits are important no matter what time of year it is, but it is even more crucial in the wintertime. If road conditions are poor, don’t be afraid to drive under the speed limit, letting tailgaters go around you if need be. Be sure that you aren’t using a phone or participating in other distracting behaviors while you are driving. Fill up your gas tank before you leave in case you get stuck and need to keep the car warm.

What to do if you get stuck in your car in the winter

Hopefully, you will make it safely to your destination, but if not, don’t panic. Remain with your vehicle and don’t work too hard trying to extricate your car. Keep your interior light on and make your car visible to others by putting something bright on your antenna or sticking something out of your windows. If you run your car, keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow. If you must run it with the windows up or in a space without open air, do it only for short amounts of time.

Even with all of these precautions, car accidents in the winter will still happen. You may do everything in your power to avoid a crash, but someone else may not. If you or a loved one suffers injuries in this kind of crash because of someone else’s carelessness, you have the means to hold that person accountable.