Rain, slush and ice can make Houston roads dangerous throughout the winter. Photo By: Howard Kang via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

Rain, Slush, & Ice: Staying Safe on Houston Winter Roads

With our warm climate, residents of the Bayou City can be unaccustomed to winter weather. A few flurries or icicles are enough to terrify many Houston drivers and empty our normally buzzing roads. But just because true winter conditions are a rarity in H-Town doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be ready – especially since we might be less experienced driving in such conditions. Consider that winter driving preparedness means understanding what you can do to protect yourself before you hit the roads and while on them.

Winter Driving Preparations

The Texas Department of Transportation’s Safety Guide for Winter Travel reminds us that one of the best ways to stay safe on the roads this winter season is by being prepared. It suggests taking the following precautions:

  • Make sure your car is in good condition for winter weather driving. Check the anti-freeze levels, brakes, battery, tires, and windshield wiper blades at the start of the winter season (or as soon as possible before driving in winter weather). Ensure headlights and tail lights are functioning properly.
  • Prepare a winter emergency kit. Getting stranded in cold, wet conditions can be more than just unpleasant. It can also be dangerous. Minimize the risk by carrying essentials such as a first-aid kit, blankets, non-perishable food items, a flashlight, matches/lighters, road maps and an ice scraper.
  • Know what to expect. Winter weather can create blocked roads, icy bridges or overpasses, lowered visibility, or a number of other hazards. You can check road conditions at DriveTexas.org or call the TxDOT 24-hour road conditions hotline at 1-800-452-9292.

Defensive Driving on Wintry Roads

Once you find yourself in winter road conditions, your game-plan should shift toward minimizing the risks you might encounter while driving. FOX 2 Houston recommends removing any distracting gadgets away from the driver. If you’re on a longer drive, consider rotating drivers or taking frequent rest stops, in order to ensure alertness while on the road.

Meanwhile, the Texas Department of Transportation’s Winter Travel page suggests you observe the following precautions on wintry roads:

  • Remember that speed limits are based on normal conditions. During inclement weather, reducing your speed can give you more reaction time.
  • Keep your distance. Lower visibility, stressed-out drivers and slick roads can all combine to create a host of dangers. Like your driving speed, your distance from other vehicles should be increased. On snow and ice, TxDOT says you should keep back about three times your usual distance. On an icy road, that extra distance gives you the time and space to avoid an accident.
  • Steer in the direction of a spin or slide. Although it might seem counterintuitive, if you feel your car spinning or sliding, it’s important to back off the gas and brakes, and steer into the direction of your spin or slide, the TxDOT says. Only once you regain traction should you attempt to straighten your vehicle.

If you do encounter a winter roadside emergency, Allstate’s Roadside Services can help you get back on your feet – and on the road.

Recommended by the Editors: