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What Should I Do If I’m Stuck in a Snowbank?


Getting stuck in snow can be an inconvenience or downright frightening, depending on the circumstances. Not knowing what to do could make the situation worse, so keep the following in mind if you find yourself stuck in a snowbank.

Freeing a Vehicle from a Snowbank

Clearing the snow away from the tires can be done by turning the wheels from side to side or digging it out with a shovel which should be part of your emergency car kit. To improve traction, apply sand, salt or kitty litter in the front and back of the tires. Another option is to place the floor mats underneath the tire’s edges to help gain a better grip. Or if you have tire chains, put them on.

The vehicle can get stuck deeper if you apply too much gas, so lightly touch it, gently shifting from forward to reverse with the wheel straight. Do this several times. Be patient as this may take a few attempts. Once there is some momentum, you might add more sand, salt or kitty litter in the path of the wheels.

If there is someone with you, it might help if the person pushes the vehicle while you attempt to maneuver it. However, this should be done with extreme caution and only when moving forward. Never have someone behind the vehicle while going in reverse.

It’s also important that the individual who is pushing has footwear that can handle the snow. Otherwise there is the risk of slipping or getting caught underneath if the vehicle should suddenly gain traction.

Keeping Safe When Your Vehicle Is Stuck

If you’re unable to free the vehicle and you’re in the middle of nowhere, it’s usually best to remain with the vehicle. Use a cell phone to call for help.

Deciding to get out and look for help could be dangerous, especially if the conditions are hazardous (blizzard, blowing snow, freezing temperatures). Not only does this keep you warm and dry but if someone is looking for you, it’s easier to spot a vehicle than a person.

Make sure the headlights are cleared of snow (if possible) and turn them on so people can see your vehicle from a greater distance. If you have flares or reflective triangles, use them. This will also help prevent another vehicle from colliding with yours.

However, it’s important to not run the vehicle if the tailpipe is blocked by snow or ice. Carbon monoxide can be deadly, so if the tailpipe can’t be unblocked, don’t run the vehicle. Wrap yourself in blankets and put on extra clothing if available.

Even if the tailpipe isn’t blocked, don’t run the heater constantly as this can drain fuel. Intermittently turn it on to warm up but also crack open a window just to make sure there aren’t deadly fumes gathering inside the vehicle.

If an accident ever puts you in the snowbank, make sure you protect your rights. Hensley Legal Group provides the Consumer’s Guide for Injured Victims so accident victims know their rights.