Winter Car Safety

It's Pothole Season

While potholes can occur any time of year, they are most prevalent in the northeast in late winter or early spring. Heavy traffic, aging pavement and frequent patching will lead to cracks. During the winter, snow and water fills those cracks and freezes, expanding and moving the pavement. Once the thaw begins and the ice in the pavement melts, potholes appear.

Avoiding potholes is difficult and sometimes impossible. Should you drive into one, you may damage your exhaust system, suspension, alignment and/or tires and rims. From a safety standpoint, many drivers swerve quickly to avoid potholes, causing serious crashes. And, driving into a pothole unexpectedly can cause you to lose control, leading to additional danger.

Try to avoid potholes by staying alert and attentive behind the wheel. If you see a pothole, states encourage you to report the locations so maintenance can be scheduled. In some states, vehicle owners can file a claim to request reimbursement for damage resulting from hitting a pothole.

For more information, visit these websites to learn more about your state’s policies or call the numbers provided:

You can minimize your risk from potholes with AAA’s Tire & Wheel Protection Program.

Caution: Winter Weather Conditions Ahead

Winter Driving Tips:

If you must be out driving in a winter storm, be mindful that the two most dangerous factors are lack of traction and lack of visibility.

Slow down!  It’s a good rule of thumb to slow your speed by half when driving on snow and ice.  Fill your tires to the recommended pressure and check your tread depth. Only 2/32” of tread depth is required for your vehicle to pass state inspection but 4/32” is needed for snow. The distance it takes to bring your vehicle to a stop will double. Allow 5-6 seconds of following=g distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.

Assemble a winter emergency kit for your vehicle that contains: a bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats, small snow shovel, flashlight with extra batteries, window washer solvent, ice scraper with brush, cloth or roll of paper towels, jumper cables, warning devices (flares or triangles), first-aid kit, basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench), and a cell phone charger. 

  • Bridges and exit ramps always freeze up first because of the cold air flow beneath them, and intersections are especially icy.
  • Clean the inside and outside of your windshield in advance and make sure you’re using antifreeze washer solvent and the reservoir is full. Being able to clear your windshield is critical. Wiper blades should be in good condition- you may want to put winter wiper blades on your vehicle. 
  • Clean the lenses of your headlights. Having a film of salt or sand on your headlights can reduce their effectiveness by up to 90%.
  • If you start to skid, don’t try to counter-steer, don’t slam on the brakes, and don’t pump the brakes. Most vehicles have antilock brakes, so keep your foot planted firmly on the brake pedal and look and steer where you want your vehicle to go. When the tire starts to rotate again the vehicle will straighten out. 
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid having fuel lines freeze.
  • Don’t use your parking brake.
  • Avoid using cruise control in slick conditions.
wintery road with vehicle in the distance

How Can I Stretch my Fuel Dollars?

  • Tires & Maintenance – keep your vehicle in top shape with routine inspections and make sure your tires are properly inflated. 
  • Plan Ahead – map your route to minimize unnecessary turnarounds and backtracking. Avoid peak traffic times. Combine errands and go to "one-stop shops” where you can do multiple tasks (banking, shopping, etc.). 
  • Watch Your Speed – fuel economy peaks at around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speeds increase. Reducing highway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%. 
  • Avoid Excessive Idling – a car engine consumes one quarter to one-half gallon of fuel per hour when idling, but a warm engine only takes around 10 seconds worth of fuel to restart. Where safe to do so, shut off your engine if you will be stopped for more than a minute. 
  • Use "Fast Pass" or “Express” Toll Lanes – avoiding unnecessary stops or slowdowns on the highway helps save fuel. 
  • Anticipate Road Conditions – watch the traffic ahead and "time" stoplights to maintain momentum and avoid unnecessary stop and go.  
  • Regular vs. Premium – if regular gas is recommended for your vehicle, that’s all you need. Choosing premium when your car doesn’t require it will only cost you money and doesn’t improve fuel economy. 


How do AAA members save even more on gas?

As a AAA member, you can receive discounts at the pump when you fill up at Shell stations. It’s easy and free! Simply register for Fuel Rewards® at Shell to save 30¢/gal on you first fill-up when you join the program by 12/31/23 and make your first transaction within 30 days. After that, enjoy Gold Status every day with no minimum fill-up requirements and save 5¢/gal - up to 20 gallons - at participating Shell stations.     

Safely Buckle In Your Bundle of Joy

child in winter jacket sitting in car seat


Cold weather means more puffy coats and extra layers. Parents need to know that heavy outdoor clothing can affect how well a child’s car seat protects them. It may appear that straps are snug and attached correctly, but there may be too much extra slack for the seat to work correctly. AAA Northeast recommends securing your children in their car seats without heavy jackets — strap the child in first, then cover him/her with a coat or extra blankets. 

Learn More About Seat Safety

Wipers Up or Down?

It’s a question heavily debated every winter — should you leave the windshield wipers up or down when the forecast calls for snow? According to the Car Doctor, John Paul, it’s all personal preference. Leaving the wipers up does make it easier to clean the windshield after a snowfall, but heavy snow can put additional pressure on the wiper arm springs; over time, this can cause wiper chatter. 

“For what it’s worth, I have never seen an owner’s manual that instructs you to raise wiper blades when snow is in the forecast,” adds Paul. “But then again, I’m a wipers-down driver.”

Whatever method you choose, be careful clearing the snow from the blades and the framework. And always check the rubber blades for cracking or peeling. Cold weather can damage blades, so you might want to consider buying all-weather or dedicated winter blades.

image of car with snowy windshield wipers
Roadside Assistance Truck