Winter Driving Safety

In the City of Boise, it is not uncommon to receive some snow during the winter months and in early spring. Here are some ways to ensure you reach your destination safely when the roads are covered in ice and snow.

Driving on Snowy and Icy Roads

Keep Your Vehicle in Good Condition

Ensure that your lights, tires, brakes, windshield wipers, defroster and radiator on your car are in good shape. These things are especially important for winter driving.

Keep Your Windows Clear

Don't start driving until the windows are defrosted and clean - even if you're going only a short distance. Keep your windshield washer reservoir filled with a non-freezing solution all winter. You can pick up with washer fluid at any neighborhood gas station or from an autoparts store.

Skip The Cruise Control

For safety reasons, you should not use cruise control if the road is wet and/or icy.

Winter downtown Boise

Buckle Up

All occupants are required to wear safety belts and/or shoulder straps when riding in a vehicle equipped with them.

Slow Down

Start slowing your car down at least three times sooner than you normally do when turning or stopping.

Don't Make Sudden Movements

When stopping, avoid sudden movements of the steering wheel and pump the brake gently. Check your vehicle owner's manual; if the vehicle has anti-lock brakes, you may apply steady pressure to the brake pedal.

Watch for Ice

Be aware of potential icy areas such as shady spots, bridges and overpasses. Ice may form sooner or remain on bridges and overpasses longer, since they are exposed on their undersides and are deprived of ground warmth. Snow and ice also stay longer in shaded areas.

Upgrade Your Tires

It's not too early to think about studded tires. In Idaho, studded snow tires may be used from October 1 to April 30.

Vehicle in snow

Snow Removal Equipment

Use extra caution when encountering snow removal equipment; snowplow blades force snow up and off the road, potentially causing blizzard-like conditions and reduced visibility for drivers following too closely.

Remain two car lengths behind snowplow trucks for every 10 mph you drive. Sand being spread by trucks can damage your vehicle. Do NOT pass unless absolutely necessary.

Do not abandon your car unless it is absolutely necessary. If you must, leave it as far off the road as possible. Abandoned cars can interfere with the road clearing process and can be extremely hazardous to snow removal equipment and the operators if they are hidden or buried by snow.

Stranded During Winter Weather

When traveling in winter months, be prepared in case your vehicle breaks down or you get into a collision. You should keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car. These kits should include:

Extra Tools

This can include a pocket knife, a small shovel, a flashlight and extra batteries. Make sure you have a set of reliable jumper cables in your car at all times.

Winter Wear

In some cases, it could take a long time for a crew to find you. Be sure you have extra gloves, socks, a wool cap and a blanket or sleeping bag to keep yourself warm.


Always have a complete first aid kit and full bottles or jugs of water. You should also have a bag of sand or kitty litter to help you generate traction under your wheels.

Also be sure to have a map of the area of where you plan to travel. You can't always rely on your cell phone.

Be Seen

When traveling deep into mountain areas or deserted areas, have road flares in your vehicle to make yourself visible. You can also use a bright colored scarf - tie it to the antenna of your car to enable emergency crews to see you.

Important Tips

  • If you run your car for heat, make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow. If available, tie a scarf or bright cloth on the car antennae for snow crews to see.
  • Let someone know your travel plans, including estimated departure and arrival times, route and where you will stay when you reach your destination.
  • Be courteous and call those who may be worried when you arrive at your destination. Keep in contact. If you have a cell phone, make sure it is charged, and carry a list of emergency phone numbers.
  • If you get stranded, stay with your vehicle if heavy snow is falling. Most deaths occur when people leave their car, get lost, and freeze.
  • In case of medical emergencies in areas where roads have not been plowed, call the local or state police. These agencies will work with search and rescue personnel and the Idaho Transportation Department to respond to emergencies.

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