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Driving in Winter Weather

The best way to stay safe during severe winter weather is to stay safe and warm at home. However, at Prepared4X we hope to keep you prepared for all situations and we realize that you may eventually need to venture out during cold weather conditions. According to the National Severe Storm Laboratory, 70% of winter-weather injuries happen in cars. If you do find yourself in a situation where you have to travel by car in icy and dangerous conditions keep the following best practices in mind: 

  • Do not drive during a winter storm unless it is necessary.
  • If you must travel, try and travel during the day when temperatures are warm and more people will be out to help you in case you have any trouble.
  • Always let friends or family know what your expected schedule is so they have a general idea of where you might be or where to send help if you don’t make it home. 
  • Get your car tuned up before a possible winter storm so that it is in optimal running condition. Be sure your tires have enough traction for the type of weather conditions you are likely to encounter.
  • Save the numbers for your auto club, towing service, and other emergency roadside assistance in your phone or have them written down in your car.
  • Make sure your Winter Car Survival Kit is packed and easy to access inside your vehicle.

Winterize Your Car

Be sure your car is in great working condition before severe weather hits. Be sure the brake system is in top condition, your transmission is in good working order, all your fluids are topped off, and you have a full tank of gas. Maintain a minimum of half a tank of gas at all times during extreme cold situations to prevent fuel lines from freezing and to also give you plenty of gas to run the car and stay warm in case you become stranded. Make sure your battery and ignition system is functioning properly and your battery terminals are clean. Be sure to check that your tires have enough tread. Your car may need snow tires or chains depending on the weather conditions you often have to drive in. 

If you do not feel knowledgeable enough to ensure your car is in its best working condition ask a local mechanic who you trust to go over these important systems for you. 

As we mentioned in our previous blog post about preparing your home for winter, avoiding parking your car under any trees as ice and high winds can cause large limbs to snap and potentially damage your car. To protect your car from hail and ice park your car in a well-protected spot. 

Winter Car Survival Kit

Winter storms can descend unexpectedly when you're on the road. Always carry a winter emergency kit, preferably in your back seat in case the trunk of your car should freeze shut. The kit should contain everything you need to cope with a sudden breakdown and possibly being stranded for some time. 

Make sure your car survival kit has the following:

  • Basic Tool Kit - pliers, wrench, screwdriver, etc.
  • Jumper Cables - flares or reflective triangle are great extras
  • Flashlights - replace the batteries before the winter season starts and pack some extras
  • Ice Melt - bag of rock salt or deicer
  • Cat Litter or Sand - for better tire traction
  • Shovel - to help remove snow
  • Ice Scraper
  • First Aid Kit - be sure it is stocked with any essential medicines that you must take.
  • Blankets or Sleeping Bags - or an emergency mylar poncho
  • Extra Cell Phone Charger
  • Food and Water - non-perishable food such as canned food and a can opener, dry cereal, and protein-rich foods like nuts and energy bars

Worst Case Scenario 

If you become stranded in your vehicle during a winter storm follow the list of tips provided by Nationwide to keep you safe until help arrives:

  • Remain inside. Rescuers are more likely to find you there.
  • Run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Clear any snow from the exhaust pipe to reduce your risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Move around to maintain heat.
  • Use maps, floor mats, and seat covers for insulation.
  • Take turns sleeping. Someone should always be awake to alert rescuers.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
  • Turn on the inside light at night so rescue crews can find you.
  • If you’re stranded in a remote area, stomp out the words "SOS" or "HELP" in the snow.

Additional Resources:

How to Prepare for a Winter Storm FEMA

Winter Storm Safety American Red Cross

Prepare for Cold Weather National Weather Service

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