Stuck in the Snow: What to Do and How to Prevent It Happening

Winter is upon us and the threat of severe weather is just around the corner in many countries. For some people, snow is an excuse to head outside for some fun, but if you have no choice but to hit the road, you're more likely to be concerned with getting through your journey in one piece. Knowing what to do if you get stuck is key.

Here are eight tips that will help get you moving again.

  • You'll get nowhere fast if you allow yourself to panic, so remain calm. Take some time to assess the situation and decide what you need to do to get out of it.
  • Over revving the engine will do more harm than good as it will compact the snow and make it slippier. Try to move the car slowly back and forth in a gentle rocking motion until you gain some traction.
  • If the car is not budging, try to clear the snow from around the wheels and lay down sand, cat litter, cardboard or even the car's interior floor mats behind the back wheels. Remember to pop the handbrake on before you get out of the vehicle.
  • Still, stuck? Unless passengers or passersby can help push the car into a better position, it's probably time to call your car rental company or motorway assistance.
  • Remain with, and preferably inside, the vehicle until help arrives. If you're in a drift, avoid the temptation to run the engine continuously for warmth. Use extra clothes and blankets to keep warm instead.
  • Although it's okay to start the ignition every 15 minutes or so to keep the engine alive and enjoy a quick blast of heat, avoid succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning by first making sure that no snow has built up in the exhaust pipe.
  • Changing position in the car and stretching your fingers and toes can help you to avoid frostbite while you wait for assistance.
  • In case of heavy snow, help emergency services to find you by tying something colourful to the car's antenna and leaving the interior light of the vehicle on. Assuming you turn the engine over periodically, this won't drain the battery.

Avoiding the Problem

Prevention is better than cure and it's better to avoid getting stuck in the snow in the first place. Here are three tips that will help keep you on the road this winter.

Be Prepared

When driving in winter conditions, it's important to ensure your rental car is up to the job. Quality rental companies will ensure that the car you take is up to date with servicing and maintenance, but for peace of mind, it's worth confirming that's the case before you accept the vehicle. Always remember that last-minute visual checks before you set off on each journey are your responsibility.

Pack an Emergency Kit

Perhaps the only thing worse than getting stuck in the snow is not having the right tools to get you out. Before you get behind the wheel, prepare an emergency kit containing things like snow removal tools and reflective warning lights. Blankets, food and water will help if you are unable to move for an extended period. Ensure you keep emergency numbers for your rental company close to hand.

Drive Carefully

Driving safely and appropriate to the conditions can help reduce the possibility of problems on the road. Take it nice and slow and stick to well-gritted roads whenever possible. If thick snow starts to fall while you are driving, take things even slower. If you're renting a car abroad, remember to swot up on the rules of the road for the country where you'll be driving.