It feels like the winter of ‘69 out there! Many of us remember the good old days of consistent snowy winters like this one, but I think we are all a little out of practice in preparing and dealing with it. So, because it’s not too late and there is still plenty more winter to come, here are a few reminders to make sure you are winter ready on the road!
Winterizing your car and better planning for winter driving will give you peace of mind and better protect you from injury or incident. During a winter storm it is important to only drive if it is absolutely necessary! If you must drive, try to travel during the day, in a 4-wheel vehicle, and have someone else with you. It is also a good idea to make sure others are informed of your schedule and planned route. Stay on the main roads to your destination and route, so help can be sent to the right location if necessary.
Next be sure your vehicle is in top condition for the cold elements and you have an emergency kit in your car. See our website for a complete list of items to check on your car and include in your kit. So what happens if you do get stranded in your car? It’s time to evaluate your options to pick the safest way to get home. According to the CDC, follow these guidelines:
You should STAY in your vehicle:
- If stuck on the road to avoid exposure or rescue is likely.
- If a safe location is neither nearby or visible.
- If you do not have appropriate clothing to go outside.
- If you do not have the ability to call for help.
You should GO from your vehicle:
- If the distance to call for help is accessible.
- If you have visibility and outside conditions are safe.
- If you have appropriate clothing. Wear layers of loose-fitting, warm, water repellent clothing with mittens, hat, and scarf.
- Once the storm has passed, if you are not already home, follow instructions from the local transportation department to find which route will be safest to get home.
If you are stranded in your vehicle in a blizzard:
- Pull off the highway. Turn on hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the window.
- Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you and keep interior lights on.
- Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Exercise to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion.
- In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers, and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
- Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
- Eat regularly and drink ample fluids to avoid dehydration, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs- use of lights, heat, and radio.
- If stranded in a remote area, stomp large block letters in an open area spelling out HELP or SOS and line with rocks or tree limbs to attract the attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by airplane.
- Leave the car and proceed on foot if necessary, once the blizzard passes.
Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:
- Antifreeze levels – ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
- Battery and ignition – should be in top condition and battery terminals clean.
- Brakes – check for wear and fluid levels.
- Exhaust system – check for leaks and crimped pipes and repair or replace as necessary.
- Fuel and air filters – replace and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
- Heater and defroster – ensure they work properly.
- Lights and flashing hazard lights – check for serviceability.
- Oil – check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal more at low temperatures.
- Thermostat – ensure it works properly.
- Windshield wiper equipment – repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
- Install good winter tires – Make sure the tires have adequate tread and snow tire studs. Some roads and conditions may also require chains.
Vehicle emergency kit items:
- Windshield scraper and small broom
- Battery powered radio
- Extra batteries
- Snack food
- Extra hats, socks and mittens
- First aid kit with pocket knife
- Necessary medications
- Tow chain or rope
- Road salt and sand
- Booster cables
- Emergency flares
- Fluorescent distress flag