Your winter safety checklist: 7 key tips for the cold season

In this article, we'll provide seven tips on how to stay safe and sound (and warm) during the winter season. By following these recommendations, you can enjoy the beauty of winter while minimizing the risk of accidents.

As winter sweeps in, it brings not only snowy outdoor fun and indoor coziness but also challenging weather conditions. Slippery pathways, icy roads, and strong winds are the most common culprits in accidents that happen during winter. While nobody can be 100% protected from accidents, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of getting into one. And, for greater peace of mind, Accident insurance can be your fuzzy safety pillow during winter

1. Dress appropriately

You may have heard the saying Scandinavians live by: “There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothes.” Indeed, dressing for the weather is not only crucial for feeling good in low temperatures but also for staying healthy and avoiding accidents.

Some tips for choosing appropriate clothing in winter: 

Layers. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin. Add an insulating layer for warmth, and finish with a waterproof and windproof outer layer for protection against the elements.

Proper headwear. A lot of heat can be lost through your head, so wearing a hat is crucial in winter. Choose one that covers your ears for added protection. A hat can also help in unfortunate – but not that rare – accidents when snow or ice falls from rooftops.

Appropriate footwear. Choose boots that aren’t only insulated and waterproof but also provide good traction to prevent slipping on icy surfaces. If you need to walk on very icy paths, consider using ice cleats or slip-resistant overshoes to avoid accidents.

Scarves and neck warmers can help seal the gap between your coat and neck, preventing cold air from entering. They also add an extra layer of insulation.

Thermal socks and mittens. Choose thick, thermal socks to keep your feet warm and dry. Wear insulated gloves or mittens to keep your hands warm.

Breathable fabrics. While staying warm is essential, your clothing should also be breathable to prevent moisture buildup. Look for fabrics that allow sweat to escape, such as Gore-Tex or similar breathable materials. 

2. Use reflectors

While winter is dubbed the “white season”, in reality, it’s rather the “black season” in terms of the number of daylight hours we get. Unfortunately, darkness and fog in winter negatively affect the visibility on the roads. Most fatal pedestrian accidents occur at night – some of those may have been averted if people made sure they were visible when walking after dark.

Reflectors are an effective and low-cost safety measure that makes you more visible to other traffic participants, helping to prevent accidents. You can choose clothing with reflective elements or attach reflectors to the front and back of your clothes or bag. Ideally, wear a reflective vest when walking, jogging, or cycling alongside traffic in low-light conditions.

In addition, choosing bright-colored outdoor clothing is a good idea, as it will make you stand out in overcast and foggy weather, which is common in winter. 
If you happen to be on the side of the road at night with no reflectors, shine your phone’s flashlight in the direction of traffic. This will make cars see you better.

3. Walk carefully (like a penguin)

If you find yourself on icy sidewalks or roads, learn from the best ice experts – penguins! Walking slowly and taking small steps is guaranteed to get you safely to your destination – just be sure to plan enough time to get there. And remember our first tip about appropriate clothing and footwear.

An important reminder for all 21st-century pedestrians – keep your focus on the path ahead and avoid using your phone while walking on ice! When available, hold onto handrails when walking up or down stairs – even if it seems unnecessary. Avoid walking too close to building walls, as snow or icicles may fall off the edges of the roof. 

Pro tip:
Be especially careful of black ice (which can be almost invisible), whether walking or driving. If you encounter black ice, slow down and avoid sudden movements. Walk on areas that appear to have been treated with salt or sand.

4. Drive safely (slowly

If penguins had cars, they would definitely be slow and calm drivers, as it is the key to avoiding winter car accidents. Thousands of car crashes daily could be prevented if people did not rush and would allow themselves enough time to commute peacefully during challenging weather.

Before driving, check the weather forecast and road conditions for any warnings or accident updates. If the weather conditions are extremely harsh, consider staying home or taking public transport.

Finally, allow ample space between you and the car in front of you. Braking distances on slippery roads are significantly longer than on dry asphalt. It’s also essential to avoid abrupt movements – breaking should be done gently and gradually if the situation allows it.

5. Get accident insurance

Slip and fall incidents, car accidents, and other mishaps are common in winter. Accident insurance can cover medical expenses and other costs if you are injured due to hazardous conditions on sidewalks, roads, and in and around your home.

In addition, accident insurance can provide financial protection if you get hurt doing fun winter sports like skiing, snowboarding, and ice skating.

If’s Senior Claims Handler Inga Draule shared that the most common injuries sustained when slipping on slippery surfaces or steps (from winter months of 2022/2023) were ankle or lower leg fractures, forearm or hand fractures, shoulder and upper arm fractures, as well as collarbone and rib fractures. The average insurance compensation for such traumas ranged from € 350 to 700.

Accident insurance can complement your primary health insurance coverage, filling in gaps that may not be covered. In addition, if you suffer an injury in a winter accident that prevents you from working, you can go on sick leave without worry since your income will not be reduced during recovery.

6. Check vehicle maintenance

For your car to be a reliable companion in winter, ensure its brakes, tires, lights, and other critical components are working properly before the winter season. Check if the battery is in good condition, with clean and tight connections. If it's more than a few years old, consider having it tested or replaced.

In Estonia, car owners must change summer tires to winter tires by December 1 at the latest.

It’s not the case with changing the car’s windshield liquid to a wintertime mixture. Make sure you change the fluid in time so it doesn’t freeze and prevent you from keeping your windshield clear. Consider using winter wiper blades that are designed to handle snow and ice.

Pro tip:
If you’re like many people, you may not remember when you last checked your car’s first-aid kit. The arrival of winter may be high time to ensure it includes all medical essentials

7. Winterize your home

You’ve got your winter clothes, reflectors, and car ready for the cold season. But what about your home?

Don’t forget that it also needs to be prepared for negative temperatures, snow, and prolonged heating to avoid any unpleasant accidents or damage.

Once the winter arrives, do your best to keep your walkways and driveways clear of snow and ice. Shoveling promptly after a snowfall and using sand or ice melt can prevent slip-and-fall accidents.

If you use a heater or fireplace, follow safety guidelines to prevent fires. Keep flammable materials away, use a screen with your fireplace, and turn off heaters when you leave the room. Finally, make sure your fire extinguisher is at hand in case of emergency.

For added peace of mind, you could consider Home insurance to offer financial protection against winter hazards.

Remember, a well-prepared winter is a safe and enjoyable winter.

Some quick tips for winterizing your home include:

  • Inspecting and servicing your heating system;
  • Checking doors and windows for drafts and sealing any gaps or cracks;
  • Having your chimney and fireplace professionally cleaned and inspected;
  • Clearing leaves and debris from your gutters and downspouts;
  • Trimming trees and overhanging branches to prevent damage from heavy snow or ice accumulation;
  • Testing and replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors to ensure they are in working order;
  • Checking your roof to prevent leaks and heat loss.

Stay safe and warm this winter