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The Best Apps for Winter Driving: GPS Locators, Survival Guides, and Weather Alerts

Winter driving can be a challenge no matter how experienced you are behind the wheel. During the coldest months of the year, the risk of accidents increases. Roads are often wet, icy or slush-covered, leading to slippery conditions that can be dangerous. Additionally, snowstorms and downpours can arrive while you are on the road, often seemingly out of nowhere, reducing roadway visibility and increasing the risk of accidents.

While you cannot control the weather, knowing what to do when roads get wet and slick can help you stay safe. It does not matter if you are just making a short trip to the grocery store or an interstate commute to a family holiday gathering, being prepared is what counts.

We have put together a list of the best apps for winter driving, along with a checklist of winter driving essentials that you should have in case you get stuck on the road during a storm.

Winter Weather Driving Essentials Checklist

It is a good idea for every driver to have a few essentials in their car year-round in case of a tire blowout or other minor problem. Along with jumper cables, a tire iron and a gallon of water, however, you will need a few more supplies during the winter months. The following items will help keep you warm and safe when the unexpected happens:

  • Hand warmers and wool blanket – If you are waiting out a storm or waiting for roadside assistance to arrive, it can get real cold real quick. You can keep your vehicle running with the heater on, but that can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide exposure. In the case of a lengthy wait in freezing temperatures, having hand warmers and blankets can keep everyone comfortable even when the car is not
  • Snow socks – Snow chains are often expensive and can be hard to install, making snow socks an ideal option when you need extra traction in a pinch. They are essentially fabric “socks” that slip snugly over your tires. Snow socks are available in several different sizes to fit a variety of makes and models. Before buying them, however, make sure to check the local laws regarding winter gear, as snow chains might be mandatory.
  • Flares and LED flashers – Visibility is a big issue during heavy rain or snow. Make sure that other motorists do not miss your stalled vehicle by utilizing flares or LED flashers.
  • Food and drink – As previously mentioned, since roadside breakdowns or winter storms can happen without warning, preparation is key. Make sure to keep a small bag of snacks and drinks in your vehicle in case the unexpected happens. Some dried fruit and nuts, along with meat jerky or protein bars, can make a difference during a potentially long wait.
  • Shovel and snow broom – When your vehicle drifts into a snowbank, or you find that snow has accumulated quickly around your parked car, you may need to remove snow that surrounds your tires before you can get going again. A small, foldable shovel fits easily into a trunk or storage area. When used in tandem with a snow broom, a shovel allows you to remove snow accumulation quickly and with relative ease.
  • Spare phone charger and Powerbank– Plenty of us don’t bother to top off our phone’s battery when leaving the house. Generally speaking, this is not a problem, but when stranded, every minute of battery life is precious. During a roadway emergency, your phone serves as a connection to the outside world, and having a spare charger in your vehicle gives you plenty of power when you need it most. Having a power bank is also a good idea, just make sure it is always fully charged. Your smartphone can also help you monitor the weather, call for help and track the arrival time of the roadside assistance crew.

Having winter driving apps on your phone is a smart idea for staying safe even in the harshest conditions. Here are some of our favorites.

Weather Tracker Apps: Don’t get Caught by Surprise

By The people from the Tango! project (The Tango! Desktop Project) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By The people from the Tango! project (The Tango! Desktop Project) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Winter weather can change rapidly, and it is a good idea to check conditions and the forecast before you head out. Especially when on a lengthy trip, it is a good idea to use an app that tracks the weather along the entire route.

When selecting a weather app, choose one with a plethora of features, including severe weather warnings and real-time temperature. Our picks for the best weather tracking apps are as follows.

  1. Weather Underground

    • Weather Underground is considered one of the most comprehensive weather tracking apps on today’s market.
    • The app is connected to a worldwide network of more than 200,000 personal weather stations to ensure pinpoint accuracy.
    • Providing radar imaging, a detailed hourly forecast and not only the time of sunrise and sunset but the actual time when it will be dark, Weather Underground is available for Android and iOS devices.
  2. DarkSky

    • When you want specific, local-based weather data, DarkSky is your best bet.
    • The app relies on data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as local forecasts to give you a super accurate, real-time forecast.
    • DarkSky is designed for use in the here-and-now, so you may want to use a different app if you want extended forecast information.
  3. RadarCast Elite

    • Radar data is some of the most accurate weather-based information you can use, and RadarCast Elite is one of the most comprehensive radar-based apps around.
    • Along with providing current radar data, the no-frills app also predicts storm and weather patterns up to an hour into the future.
    • RadarCast Elite features a lightning locator, and you can add layers of data that give you a well-rounded amount of information.
    • The app uses information gathered via NOAA radars and satellites, and layer add-ons include arrows that track current storms and cloud cover data.

Traffic Alerts and GPS Tracker: Get Live Traffic Updates

Heavy traffic conditions can add to the dangers of winter driving, so it is in your best interest to avoid road congestion on cold days. Using data provided by Google Maps and your phone’s Internet connection, Traffic Alerts and GPS Tracker provides real-time traffic information that can help you avoid traffic. You can then find a less crowded route to your destination using the app.

Alternatives: Google Maps and Here WeGo navigation also offers traffic alerts and regular updates. Built-in and aftermarket navigation units should also have regular traffic updates. Waze for iOS is another great app for traffic alerts.

Breakdown Service Apps: The Essentials

You do not want to be left in the dark while waiting for roadside assistance, hoping they will come soon. Always choose roadside assistance who have a quality phone app. Luckily, plenty of roadside assistance apps available can call for help on your behalf and give you estimated arrival times. You will know that your preferred roadside assistance has a quality phone app if you can find the following features:

  • The app can call out for help and receive calls easily
  • GPS tracking allows the app to pinpoint your location accurately
  • You get an Estimated Arrival Time of an assistance team
  • Local points of interest are readily available and up to date

Pro Tip: Top roadside assistance apps also offer loads of content that can keep you entertained while you wait. You will find interesting and helpful tips and tricks, as well as checklists that will help you prepare for any situation you might come across on the road. 

CamOnRoad App Turns Your Phone into a Dashcam

Slick roads and excessive snowfall often cause loss of vehicle control, and you may end up in a wintertime roadway collision through no fault of your own. There’s plenty of YouTube videos of sliding cars that were caught unprepared on the icy roads. To make things a bit less complicated, a dash cam can help in sorting things out. You can help insurance claims go smoothly and provide concrete evidence regarding fault thanks to the CarOnRoad Car DVR & GPS navigator app.

This free app essentially turns your phone into a dash cam and GPS navigator too. The app will record every bit of important info. The data can be stored on the phone or cloud, as you get 2GB of cloud storage once you register.

Notable alternatives: AutoGuard (Android), CaroO (Android), DashCam (iOS)

Winter Survival Kit Tracks Your Location and Calls Emergency Services

Whether you live in a cold climate year-round, experience harsh winters only, or are more used to constant downpours during winter months, installing Winter Survival Kit will be beneficial in any case. If you find yourself stranded, the app will track your precise location and even notify family members or call 911 if necessary. The app also monitors your gas level as you run the engine to keep warm. You can set up alerts through the app to preserve gas and avoid excessive carbon monoxide exposure.

The app is available for both Android and iOS, and you can find it here.

Survival Guide App Offers All the Tips You Might Need

Based on the U.S Military Survival Manual FM 21-76, Survival Guide is a comprehensive app that provides tons of useful content that will help you in a variety of different situations. Whether you are stranded on a snowy road or hiking over unfamiliar terrain, this app may help you survive.

Featuring information on survival planning, field weapons, tools and equipment, and poisonous plants, Survival Guide provides lots of information that are both useful and entertaining.

You can find it for Android and iOS.

Stay Safe No Matter the Winter Weather

Breaking down on the road is no fun, but it is even worse when you break down in the middle of winter. Having the right app and some basic supplies on-hand can make a big difference when you find yourself stranded during the coldest months of the year. Try out some of the apps mentioned above before you hit the road this winter, and stay connected, even if weather conditions are less than ideal.

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