Winter Driving Tips For Bostonians

December 29, 2012 6:00 AM

(File photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

For three seasons of the year, Boston driving is fairly straightforward. However, locals say once it starts snowing, everyone forgets how to drive. Traffic jams turn into parking lots and accidents are more likely. This winter season, use the following tips to stay safe and navigate Boston’s snowy roads.
(File photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(File photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

City of Boston’s Rules and Tips

Especially during winter weather, be sure to follow the city’s instructions of what to do if you need to stop on the road during white outs or break downs. In addition to keeping your emergency kit, remember to do everything you can to increase your visibility on the road, and adjust your driving according to conditions. When winter weather gets particularly nasty, the city of Boston may issue a parking ban. When a parking ban is in effect, parking is prohibited on specific streets in every neighborhood. Residents who do not have alternative parking may park their cars in municipal lots provided by the city. These lots are plowed and salted. Be sure to visit the city’s website to find out the latest parking status and to read more about regulations for winter parking.

file photo

file photo

Back Bay Hardware
233 Newbury St.
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 536-0913

It’s always good measure to be prepared for an emergency, including any potential issues that may arise while driving in the winter. First, ensure that your car is serviced prior to the start of the season – switch to winter tires and purchase extra fluids to keep in the car just in case. When possible, keep a full tank of gasoline, and make sure you have enough windshield wiper fluid, lock de-icer and tools to properly clear your entire car of snow and ice. Once your car is ready for winter driving, your next step is to create an emergency kit to store in your car. Kits can include a flashlight, blankets, an extra cell phone battery, water and non-perishable food. Visit Back Bay Hardware on Newbury Street to stock up.

 (File photo by Peg Rusconi)

(File photo by Peg Rusconi)

Watch Out for Pedestrians, Cyclists and Runners
In addition to traditional traffic, Boston has a large amount of mainly pedestrians, cyclists and runners. Even though there may be snow on the ground, many cyclists are out year round. In addition, the number of pedestrians remains high as well. Be sure to take extra care when driving on city roads, and pay attention to crosswalks and bike lanes. Last but not least, Boston is a running city, and avid runners also take to the roads year round, including during the winter. As many will take to the plowed streets, be sure to pay attention to activity along the side of the road.

Related: Keller @ Large: Snow Survival Tips for Drivers

Keep An Eye Out For Black Ice

Boston has an inordinately large amount of black ice, which surprises both pedestrians and drivers during the winter season. When temperatures hover around 32 degrees and rain is beginning to transition into snow, black ice can form quickly on road surfaces, especially on bridges and ramps. Certain Boston neighborhoods are hilly, meaning stop signs located at the bottom of hills should be approached with caution. If you need to drive over T tracks, take extra care when doing so as ice can form on the rubberized ramps. If you need a refresher, schedule a one-hour session at Newton Driving School and request winter driving instructions. Affiliate locations are available in other towns as well.

Snow Plows Create Ridges
Boston residents know there isn’t much room on the roads as it is. Narrow, one-way streets are common, meaning large amounts of snow have nowhere to go except to the side. When snow plows remove snow, ridges of snow form at the sides of the road, blocking in parked cars. For the winter season, plan to also keep a small shovel in your car and house so you can dig yourself out if needed. Better yet: Don’t park on narrow, one-way streets, or consider placing your car in a parking garage during heavy winter storms. If you do need to park outside, choose a busier street, as snow removal will be more frequent.

Related: Guide to Safe Driving in a Storm

Take the T

During particularly poor weather, you always have the option of leaving the driving to someone else. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority provides service year round and is a good alternative to driving during the winter. While T stations are shoveled and kept clear, be sure to use caution when entering and exiting stations. If you need to wait outside, add an extra layer of clothing to ensure warmth. For T lines that run above ground, such as the green line, allow extra time in the event that there are delays.

Cristy is a city dwelling enthusiast, an arts, culture, and technology lover, and an all around curious person. As an examiner, she covers all things Boston. Her work can be found on