Winter conditions in Philadelphia vary greatly; snow can turn to ice to rain and back again, all in the same day. When snow or ice make road conditions treacherous, it’s best to listen to the advice to stay off the roads. However, for many, this just isn’t a realistic option. If you have to go out in winter weather, there are a number of things you can do to make sure you stay safe. Preparing your car, knowing what to do if you lose control of your vehicle and even taking a defensive winter driving course are some of the ways to stay safe. Follow these tips for the best results on the roads this winter.
Pennsylvania Driving School
9881 Verree Road
Philadelphia, PA 19115
(970) 879-6104

Price: $270 to $480

Perhaps the best way to prepare for winter driving is to take a defensive winter driving course. You’ll learn proper safety techniques as well as braking, acceleration, weight transfer, cornering and accident avoidance techniques appropriate for snow and icy road conditions. Whether in the course or in a safe, empty lot under proper instruction, be sure to practice skidding and regaining control of your vehicle. Also, be sure you take the following steps:

  • Visit your mechanic
    When Jack Frost starts nipping, it’s time to visit your local mechanic. Have them check for any mechanical or performance issues that could cause a problem in winter weather, including checking your antifreeze and fluids. They may also check the brakes, hoses and belts for any signs of wear.
  • Check your tires
    It really is best to use winter tires for winter driving because all-season tires may compromise winter performance. If you choose not to invest in a second set of tires, make sure your current tires have adequate tread and are inflated to manufacturer specifications.
  • Check fluid levels, wipers and battery
    Make sure all of your fluids are at appropriate levels. Wipers are critical for removing snow and ice from windshields, so make sure they are not cracked or hardened, and they are clearing the window properly. Check the battery connections for any corrosion. Clean them with baking soda and warm water if there are any signs of corrosion.
  • Prepare your trunk
    In the event you do get stuck, you want to make sure your vehicle has supplies to get you out of a bad situation.
    These are basic but essential winter supplies: shovel, ice scraper, flashlight and batteries, sand or cat litter for traction, jumper cables, matches or lighter, snack foods, water, safety flares or reflective triangles, change of clothing, winter boots, blankets and a first-aid kit.
Pioneer Auto Body and Repair
1970 Pioneer Road
Huntingdon Valley, PA 19006
(215) 441-5779

When you’re ready to get your car winterized, make an appointment with Rich Lynch at Pioneer Auto Body. He and his capable staff will take care of your car without emptying your wallet. They also offer 24-hour towing if you find yourself stuck on the side of the road during a winter storm or are in an accident as the result of winter weather.

Related: Routine Maintenance is Your Car’s Best Friend in the Winter

Cohen & Co. Hardware
615 East Passyunk Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 922-3493

In addition to all of the tools and hardware you need for your home, Cohen & Co. stocks everything you need to stock your trunk for winter driving. Family owned since 1913, Cohen & Co. prides itself on providing a high level of customer satisfaction. If you can’t find what you are looking for in its 1,000 square foot brick and mortar location, access its online store, which houses more than 65,000 items.

If You Must Drive

  • Clean your car
    Make sure your car is completely clear of snow and ice, including windows, mirrors, lights, trunk, roof, wheel wells and hood. Visibility is diminished during winter weather, so don’t leave any snow or ice on your car that could fall into your line of sight. Also clear any snow that may be in your tailpipe.
  • Stay on main roads
    If you can avoid driving until all roads are treated, that is best. If not, main roads are generally treated before Philadelphia’s side roads, and see higher traffic if you need help. Stay on the major arteries when possible.
  • Keep a safe distance
    When driving in wintery conditions, stay at least five seconds behind other vehicles. Do not attempt to pass snowplows or snow emergency vehicles on Philadelphia’s wintery roads. Be aware of your speed and travel at a speed dictated by the conditions.
  • Carry a cell phone
    Be prepared with a cell phone in case you are in an accident or get stuck. Also let your family or friends know your travel plans and check in with them if you are delayed or run into unexpected issues.
Potential Trouble Spots

  • Bridges
    Bridges have a constant flow of air over and below them, so they really do freeze before road surfaces, especially in chilly Philadelphia. These can often be icy even when the rest of the roadway is fine. If you are unsure of the conditions, brake before getting to the bridge surface. If you need to slow down on the bridge surface, take your foot off of the accelerator and avoid braking or braking/accelerating quickly.
  • Black ice
    One of the scariest conditions a driver can encounter is black ice. What appears to be a benign wet patch is often a slick patch of ice that can quickly turn a car into a tailspin. If you come across a patch of black ice, try to react as little as possible, as tiny changes can cause big reactions. If you start to skid, remember to turn your wheel gently in the direction of the skid and keep your eyes focused on the direction you are trying to travel.
  • Limited access highways
    Roads like the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Blue Route and the Schuylkill Expressway deal with a high volume of traffic, even during winter storms. When an accident occurs on these roadways during normal conditions, gridlock follows quickly. When this happens during bad weather, emergency vehicles have a difficult time getting to the accident and it can lead to sitting for hours in cold, frigid weather. Try to seek safe, alternate routes on other major roads where you can get off the road if traffic comes to a standstill because of an accident.

Related: See the Jams Before You’re Jammed

Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
1101 S. Front St.
Harrisburg, PA 17104-2516
(800) 932-4600

For more great tips on staying safe on the road during winter weather, visit PennDOT’s website. Here you’ll find information on what PennDOT does, how it’s done and what you need to do to make sure they can get the roads cleared and safe for everyone. In addition to learning about PennDOT, you will find a winter safety guide and a section that offers current traffic conditions.

Maddie Wagner is a freelance writer covering all things Philadelphia. Her work can be found on