Safety Tips for California Winter Travel

Californians have it all - high peaks in the Sierras, sunny or rainy coastal areas, and the extremes of a desert climate.  Summer brings its driving dangers but winter packs a punch, too.
Here's what you need to know to practice safe driving for California winter travel.

Safety Tips for Driving in Winter in California

1.  Be Nice
When winter driving conditions get bad, everyone feels the stress.  Storms, heavy rain, ice, snow, and delays cause a potent mix of stress on the highways, often leading to increased safety hazards.
One way to combat this dangerous mix of conditions is to be nice and be patient.
2.  Slow Down
Driving in winter can mean any number of hazards, and you may have to slow down for safety's sake.  Leave earlier than you would in summertime, and don't be tempted to rush to get to your destination.  
Snow and ice can mean terrible road conditions so you'll have to be on your toes to stay safe.  This is especially true in heavy rains, when going too fast may cause hydroplaning.
Going too fast in bad weather is one sure-fire way to increase the likelihood that you'll be involved in an accident.
3.  Be Prepared
Preparing for winter driving means making sure you and your car are ready for anything.  Keep a car emergency kit in your trunk at all times, and make sure there's a blanket included.
As for your car, give it the old once-over when the season starts: you'll want to pay special attention to your wiper blades, since winter driving in California can often mean lots of rain.
4.  Driving in the Sierras?  Carry Chains
During the winter months, California drivers in the eastern Sierra mountains should carry chains in their vehicles.  At certain times, when driving conditions are hazardous enough to warrant it, chain controls will be in effect.
Drivers who do not follow chain control laws may be fined by the California Highway Patrol.  This means when chain controls are in effect, you must pull over and put chains on your tires.  If you don't have them with you, you will have to return to where you came from.
Make sure to pull well off the road when you're installing your chains.  When chain controls are in effect, the speed limit is reduced, too.
4.  Check for Mountain Pass Road Closures
If you have your heart set on driving the snow-capped peak areas of the Sierras, don't leave home until you've ascertained that there are no closures in effect.  The California Department of Transportation maintains a website listing the various mountain pass and loop closures throughout the year.  Most of these closures are in effect starting in November and many continue until June so be sure to check before heading out on a mountain drive.
You may also call the Caltrans Highway Information Network (CHIN) at 800.427.7623
5.  Learn How to Drive in Heavy Rain
This may seem obvious, but don't attempt to drive your vehicle through a "puddle" that's so deep you can't see the ground through the water.  It might be far deeper than you think!
When it's raining, foggy, or just overcast, turn your headlights on.  You don't want to be invisible to other drivers.  Keep a safe distance from other drivers, too, since rain conditions may cause them to stop or slow down suddenly. As for your own braking, do it gently and never brake so suddenly and forcibly the wheels lock... you may skid.
Hope this helps, and stay safe out there!  And if you're unsure of your roadside assistance policy on your auto insurance, find out.  You may need it in winter time, so if yours isn't satisfactory, we can help you find an auto insurance poli0cy that offers a better deal.  Give us 2 minutes and try our handy comparison tool and see what you can save.  Just input some basic information anonymously and we’ll submit to over 30 carriers in one go. Try us out at