In cold weather we may find ourselves somewhere other than home. For many of us that could be in our cars. You can avoid many dangerous winter travel problems by planning ahead. Keep your car fueled and in good working order. Keep the gas tank near full to help avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines, be sure to check the following:
- Windshield wiper fluid (wintertime mixture)
- Brake fluid
- Emergency flashers
- Tires (air pressure and wear)
In case you are in your vehicle when an emergency occurs, or you find yourself stranded, keep a vehicle emergency kit in your car.
Items to consider for your car kit:
- a shovel
- windshield scraper and small broom
- flashlight with extra batteries
- battery powered radio
- snack foods, including energy bars
- matches and small candles
- extra hats, socks and mittens
- First aid kit with pocket knife or multi-purpose tool
- Necessary medications
- blankets or sleeping bag
- tow chain or rope
- road salt, sand, or cat litter for traction
- booster cables
- emergency flares and reflectors
- fluorescent distress flag and whistle to attract attention
- Cell phone adapter to plug into lighter
Prepare for every trip: Make sure you keep your gas tank at least half full. You may need this gas to keep warm or charge your cell phone if you get stuck.
Be easy to find: Tell someone where you are going and the route you will take before you leave.
If stuck: Tie a florescent flag (from your kit) on your antenna or hang it out the window. At night, keep your dome light on. Rescue crews can see a small glow at a distance. To reduce battery drain, use emergency flashers only if you hear approaching vehicles. If you’re with someone else, make sure at least one person is awake and keeping watch for help at all times.
Stay in your vehicle: Walking in a storm can be very dangerous. You might become lost or exhausted. Your vehicle is a good shelter.
Avoid overexertion: Shoveling snow or pushing your car takes a lot of effort in storm conditions. Don’t risk a heart attack or injury. That work can also make you hot and sweaty. Wet clothing loses insulation value, making you susceptible to hypothermia.
Fresh air: It’s better to be cold and awake than comfortably warm and sleepy. Snow can plug your vehicle’s exhaust system and cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter your car. Only run the engine for 10 minutes an hour and make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow. Keeping a window open a crack while running the engine is also a good idea.
Don’t expect to be comfortable: You want to survive until you’re found.