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Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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Safety Tips: Get Home Safe During Winter Weather

The best advice for traveling in bad winter weather is not to travel at all, if you can avoid it. Wait until conditions improve before venturing out in winter weather. Allow the snow plows, sanding trucks, and other emergency vehicles to get out ahead of you to treat conditions. Allow yourself extra time to reach your destination. 

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  • The City’s Snow and Ice Plan discourages private vehicle use and encourages mass transit use instead. In most Portland neighborhoods, residents are within four to six blocks of a transit stop or covered bus shelter. Some neighborhoods have great access to MAX light rail or the Portland Streetcar. To plan your commute by public transit, call 503-238-RIDE (7433) or visit for bus and MAX light rail schedules. In snow and ice, plan for bus delays of 20 to 30 minutes. Know where your transit stops are before venturing out.



  • Always cross at a crosswalk or at the corner. Look for oncoming vehicles before stepping down from the sidewalk and crossing the street. If possible, establish eye contact with drivers and continue looking left-right-left while crossing. Remember that oncoming vehicles may approach more quickly than anticipated and may have difficulty stopping at an intersection in icy conditions. Make sure you are seen: wear contrasting clothing (dark top and light bottom, or light top and dark bottom) and use retro-reflective materials when it’s dark outside. Dress warmly. Wear devices you can put on your shoes that act much like tire chains for your shoes.



  • Stay warm and dry. For more visibility at night, wear bright clothing, an orange vest, or use reflective tape. Use front and rear bicycle lights. Lights are required by law when riding after dark - a white light visible at least 500 feet to the front, and a red light or reflector visible at least 600 feet to the rear. Brake early and often. Avoid some painted and steel road surfaces. Steel plates, sewer covers, grates and other metal can be very slick in the rain. Stay out of puddles and off of black ice. Slow down, give yourself longer stopping distances, and keep a firmer grip on your handlebars. Do not pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.


Watch for street hazards

  • Traffic signals can be twisted to face the wrong direction or lose power during a storm. Treat all intersections with malfunctioning signals as all-way stops and use extreme caution. Fallen trees, mud from landslides, or other debris can block streets and sidewalks. Report a street hazard at 503-823-1700.  


Chains - your link to safety!

  • Buy chains, dry fit them, carry them in your vehicle, and use them. When ODOT issues a requirement to use chains on all State roads, remember that several highways run through Portland: 82nd Avenue, Powell Boulevard, Lombard Street, Barbur Boulevard, Sandy Boulevard (outer east side), and Macadam Boulevard.


Carry an emergency weather kit

  • Carry an emergency weather kit in your vehicle to help keep you safe and more comfortable during long waits. Your kit should include chains, battery jumper cables, first aid kit, shovel, basic tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver and knife), blanket, extra clothing (hats, socks, boots, and mittens), flashlight, bag of sand, and cellular phone or CB Radio.


Look out for pedestrians and bicyclists

  • Be watchful for pedestrians and bicyclists who are also trying to get around in hazardous, low visibility conditions. Share the Road safely and responsibly.


Watch for black ice

  • Black ice is defined as ice that remains on roadways that are not subjected to direct sunlight. Black ice commonly forms on roads that wind around lakes and rivers, in tunnels, on overpasses and in highly shaded, rural areas. Black ice is almost invisible to the naked eye. Be especially careful when driving or riding into shaded areas, on bridges and overpasses, and on infrequently traveled roads. Slow down during your approach.


Drive safely on wet and icy roads

Travel gently - drive, turn, and brake slowly. Adjust your speed to the road conditions and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you. 

Do not drive through standing water or around barricades on flooded streets. Turn around safely. The wake from your vehicle can cause public and private property damage and flood houses and businesses. Disobeying a barricade that has a street closure or other message sign on it is a Class B violation according to Oregon Vehicle Code and may result in a $360 fine.

Drive slowly and cautiously over wet leaves; they can create a slick driving surface.

Brake gently to avoid skidding. If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. This procedure, known as "steering into the skid," will bring the back end of your car in line with the front.

Hydroplaning happens when the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car's weight can push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires and the road. At this point, your car can be completely out of contact with the road, and you are in danger of skidding or drifting out of your lane, or even off the road.

To avoid hydroplaning, keep your tires properly inflated, maintain good tread on your tires and replace them when necessary, slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.

If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally; the car's computer will mimic a pumping action, when necessary.

If you get stuck in snow, do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper. Use a shovel to clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car. Pour sand, kitty litter, gravel, or de-icing granules in the path of the wheels to help get traction. Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.

Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other travelers. Keep your lights and windshield clean. Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.

Do not pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.