Tips for Traveling Safely in Wintery Conditions
Old Man Winter announced his arrival a few weeks ago with our first significant snowstorm followed by bone chilling temperatures. With winter's arrival, it is a suitable time to brush up on some tips for traveling safely in wintery conditions.
Before heading out there are several things you should do to ensure your safety. First, check the weather and road conditions along the route you will be traveling. If the weather or road conditions are poor and you can avoid the trip, stay home or delay the trip until the weather breaks or road conditions improve. If it is necessary for you to venture out, let someone know of your plans, including where you are heading, the route you intend to take and your estimated time of arrival.
Next, make sure your vehicle is equipped with basic supplies in the event your car breaks down or becomes stuck. In today’s modern age with cellphones, it may seem silly to fill your vehicle with supplies given the slight chance of you being stranded for an extended period, but it does happen. Just a few weeks ago hundreds of people and their vehicles were stranded along Interstate 95 near Washington, D.C., for nearly 27 hours following a snowstorm that left the road impassable. Having some basic items in your vehicle can go a long way in helping you if faced with a similar situation.
Before you head out, you may want to pack these things: an ice scraper/snow brush, jumper cables or battery jumper box, cellphone and charging battery/cord, additional warm clothes (coat, hat, gloves, etc.), disposable hand warmers, blankets, flashlight, non-perishable food and water, first-aid kit, flares or reflective hazard cones, a shovel and sand and/or kitty-litter. If you are on any critical medications, you will also want to make certain you have those with you as well.
You should also clear off any snow or ice that has accumulated on the vehicle’s windows and mirrors. This means all your windows and not just your front and back windshields. This seems like an easy decision, but we have all seen that person driving along with only a tiny section of their windshield cleared. Being able to see without obstruction is crucial to the safe operation of a motor vehicle. Finally, check your vehicle’s tires to ensure they are properly inflated and have plenty of tread.
Once on the roadway, slow down and leave plenty of distance between you and any other vehicle. Reducing your vehicle’s speed will give you additional time to react to the roadway conditions, a pedestrian, an animal, another vehicle or even your own vehicle in the event of a slide or loss of traction. Try to avoid abrupt acceleration, braking and turns as these actions can lead to a loss of traction, sliding or loss of control of your vehicle. When traveling uphill, momentum is your ally and avoid stopping before or on uphill grades. You should not use cruise control when driving on slippery road conditions. Stay off your cellphone, turn down the radio and limit any other distractions. Your focus should be solely on the safe operation of your vehicle.
In the event your vehicle gets stuck or breaks down, first try to contact someone whether that be a friend or family member that might be able to assist, a tow company or first responders using your phone. Advise them of your situation. If you do get stuck or stranded, it is important you remain with your vehicle. Your vehicle will provide you with some shelter from elements, and it is easier for help to spot your vehicle. If you packed flares or reflective cones, place them around your vehicle. Tie a brightly colored piece of cloth or clothing on the antenna of your vehicle or at the top of a rolled-up window to signal you are in distress and in need of assistance. As you do not know how long it may take before help arrives, try to conserve fuel by only running the engine periodically. Before turning on your vehicle and running the engine, you must make sure the exhaust pipe of your vehicle is not clogged or blocked. A blocked or clogged exhaust pipe of a running vehicle engine could cause deadly odorless carbon monoxide to leak into the vehicle. Once you have taken these steps, settle into your vehicle and try to keep warm while you await help.