The leading cause of death during winter storms is transportation accidents. Preparing your vehicle for the winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to safe winter driving. Here are some helpful hints on how to prepare:
Have a mechanic check the following items on you car:
Here are some other precautions to take:
- Install good winter tires. Make sure the tires have adequate tread. All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions. However, some jurisdictions require that to drive on their roads, vehicles must be equipped with chains or snow tires with studs.
- Keep a windshield scraper and small broom for ice and snow removal in your car.
- Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season.
- Plan long trips carefully.
- Listen to the radio or call the State Highway Patrol for the latest road conditions.
- Always travel during daylight and, if possible, take at least one other person.
- If you must go out during a winter storm, use public transportation whenever possible.
- Dress warmly.
- Wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
- Carry food and water.
- Store a supply of high energy "munchies" and several bottles of water.
Keep these items in your car in case of an emergency! It's better to be safe than sorry.
- Cellular telephone
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- First aid kit with pocket knife
- Necessary medications
- Several blankets
- Sleeping bags
- Extra newspapers for insulation
- Plastic bags (for sanitation)
- Extra set of mittens, socks and a wool cap
- Rain gear and extra clothes
- Small sack of sand for generating traction under wheels
- Small shovel
- Small tools (pliers, wrench, screwdriver)
- Booster cables
- Set of tire chains or traction mats
- Cards, games, puzzles, books
- Brightly colored cloth to use as a flag
- Canned fruit and nuts
- Non-electric can opener
- Bottled water
- STAY IN THE VEHICLE.
- Do not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards; you may become disoriented and lost in blowing and drifting snow.
- Display a trouble sign; hang a brightly colored cloth on the radio antenna and raise the car hood.
- Occasionally run engine to keep warm; turn on the car's engine for about 10 minutes each hour. Run the heater when the car is running. Also turn on the car's dome light when the car is running. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation.
- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
- Do minor exercises to keep up circulation.
- Clap hands and move arms and legs occasionally. Try not to stay in one position for too long.
- If more than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping.
- For warmth, huddle together.
- Use newspapers, maps and even the removable car mats for added insulation.
- Avoid overexertion. Cold weather puts an added strain on the heart. Unaccustomed exercise such as shoveling snow or pushing a car can bring on a heart attack or make other medical conditions worse. Be aware of symptoms of dehydration.
Frostbite is a severe reaction to cold exposure that can permanently damage its victims. A loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in fingers, toes or nose and ear lobes are symptoms of frostbite.
Hypothermia is a condition brought on when the body temperature drops to less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Symptoms of hypothermia include uncontrollable shivering, slow speech, memory lapse, frequent stumbling, drowsiness and exhaustion. If frostbite or hypothermia is suspected, begin warming the person slowly and seek immediate medical assistance. Warm the person's trunk first. Use your own body heat to help. Arms and legs should be warmed last because stimulation of the limbs can drive cold blood toward the heart and lead to heart failure. Put person in dry clothing and wrap their entire body in a blanket. Never give frostbite or hypothermia victims anything with caffeine (coffee or tea) or alcohol in it. Caffeine, a stimulant, can cause the heart to beat faster and hasten the effects the cold has on the body. Alcohol, a depressant, can slow the heart and also hasten the ill effects of cold body temperature.