Wisconsin Department of Transportation

Alert: The following services will be unavailable on Saturday, January 5, 2013 from 12 a.m. (midnight) to 6 a.m. CST due to system maintenance.

Effects of cold weather when driving

A crash or other severe weather situation can occur at any time. And it could be deadly in more ways than one.


Exposed skin can freeze within one minute at wind-chill equivalent temperatures below -25 Fahrenheit.

  • Frostbite affects the extremities, such as fingers and toes.
  • If a body part has been frostbitten once, it is more susceptible to frostbite again, even in milder conditions.
  • Redness and a burning sensation are indications frostbite will occur unless the extremity is warmed.
  • Numbness is an indication that frostbite has already taken place.
  • If frostbite is discovered, hold the affected part tightly against the warm skin or another part of the body (for example, place frozen fingers under arm).
  • When thoroughly warmed, keep covered and make an effort to keep area from freezing again.


Under conditions of prolonged exposure to cold, hypothermia begins to develop when the body begins to lose heat faster than it can produce it. Symptoms become very apparent and include:

  • Uncontrollable shivering
  • Vague, slow, slurred speech
  • Memory lapses
  • Incoherence
  • Immobile, fumbling hands
  • Frequent stumbling
  • Lurching gait
  • Drowsiness
  • Apparent exhaustion

Hypothermia can happen to anyone! If you believe you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important that you make every effort to stay dry and get warm. If wet, remove wet clothing and get into warm, dry clothes, blankets or a sleeping bag. Stay awake and alert.

If a hypothermia victim loses consciousness, seek medical attention immediately.

Questions about the content of this page:
Office of Public Affairs, opa.exec@dot.wi.gov
Last modified: January 31, 2013

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