Driving on icy roads this winter? Download these 6 safety apps
If you have to drive during this icy weekend, take some safety precautions first.
Zachary McAuliffeStaff writer
Zach began writing for CNET in November, 2021 after writing for a broadcast news station in his hometown, Cincinnati, for five years. You can usually find him reading and drinking coffee or watching a TV series with his wife and their dog.
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A gigantic winter storm is freezing the US right now, and it might not be the last of the season. Snowy streets, black ice and sludge pose dangers for even a quick trip to the grocery store.
You might be thinking, "I'm a good driver. It's everyone else who needs to learn how to drive." I've thought that too, and I've also experienced enough snowstorms -- and wrecks -- to know being a good driver isn't enough.
Here are six apps to download before you hit the road this winter because, like my dad said, it's better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
With over 61 million members, AAA is almost synonymous with roadside assistance, and the AAA Mobile app continues that legacy. The app lets you request help and track your driver's progress, so you know when help will arrive. You can see your driver's name and picture in the app, too. AAA Mobile also shows you the cheapest gas prices and other deals near you.
The AAA Mobile app is free to download in the App Store and Google Play Store, but you need a AAA membership to access roadside assistance and other features. Membership plans cost between $35 and $135.50 annually.
OnStar Guardian is an app that offers roadside assistance like jumpstarting a battery or fixing a flat tire, and it also uses sensors in your smartphone to detect if you've been in a crash. If those sensors go off, OnStar advisors will call you to check if you're OK. Then, they'll contact first responders with your location.
Honk is like the Uber or Lyft of roadside assistance. If you need help, put your location and what your situation is in the app and nearby service providers will bid for your job. You pick the winning bid and pay via the app. Honk also says its network of 75,000 service providers ensures an average wait time of 15 to 30 minutes.
Blink Roadside is a web-based roadside assistance service. Blink's flat rates are what sets it apart from competitors. Roadside services like jumpstarting, roadside winching or fuel delivery cost $65, and tows start at $99 and increase $5 per mile after five miles. There are no membership fees, which makes Blink a good option if you don't need year-round assistance. Blink claims its rates could save drivers 40% based on local market rates.
Waze is a community-based traffic app that offers real-time road conditions. Drivers with Waze share road information with others on the app so you'll know if a road is covered in snow or has black ice before you leave your home.
Owned by Google, Waze also offers roadside help, but this doesn't necessarily mean a service provider will respond. When you use this feature, your location and what help you need are displayed on the Waze map for 30 minutes. Other Waze users, or a third-party partner, can see this and -- in theory -- come help you. But we don't recommend broadcasting your location to unknown users when there are so many other options available.
The Weather Channel app doesn't have roadside assistance, but it can alert you to inclement weather before it happens, so you don't go out just before a snowstorm. The app offers local hourly, daily and weekly forecasts, as well as precipitation alerts. A radar map shows you the weather in real time, and there's a Future Radar feature which shows weather predictions.