Winter Driving - Preparations include tires, emergency kit, common sense
The Weather is Fickle... Now more than ever, you hear "This is the coldest winter I can remember." NASA recorded the coldest temperatures in Earth's History recently. Some of you might be thinking “Big deal!” And yes, many of our readers have been dealing with the cold for a long time (especially you Midwesterners & Noreasterners) long enough that this won’t be your first rodeo with the snow and ice and everything that comes with this time of year. On the other hand, with the Dakotas being hit with unprecedented snow fall, freak snow in the Middle East, recent snow in places like San Diego (really!) and Southern Texas (yep!) some winter and snow driving considerations are in order for everybody this year.
If you’re among those unfortunate souls who park their cars outside nightly, you might be disheartened if you look out your window. If you are in a garage, you might be digging out. It is important to review a few safety tips before heading out into that marvelous white winter wonderland. The following come from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
Be prepared While some of this might be harder with snow falling, each is doable.
- Check tire pressure and tread depth.
- Check the battery, exhaust system, heater and defroster. Make sure the terminals are tight and free of corrosion. Check hoses and belts for cracks.
- Check your antifreeze. If it’s 2 years old, get it flushed and refilled.
- Change your oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.
- Check your windshield wipers, blades and wiper fluid.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full.
Emergency Kit After a recent ice storm, some Texans spent hours trying to dig their vehicles out with a compact disc case, a plastic red cup, the end of a broom handle and a wooden kitchen spoon. It is important o be weather-ready even in areas not accustomed to snow and ice (Heck, we've had snow and ice in San Diego of all places recently!) Besides an ice scraper, here’s what should be in your vehicle emergency kit:
- At least two blankets or a sleeping bag.
- A flashlight, battery-powered lantern and extra batteries.
- Booster (jumper) cables, emergency strobe or flares, an emergency shovel and a rope to use as a lifeline.
- Emergency Window Punch and Seat Belt Cutter
- Extra boots, hats and mittens.
- Bottled water or juice, a thermos and high-energy foods such as granola bars, raisins or peanut butter.
- First-aid kit, medications, sand or non-clumping cat litter for tire traction should your vehicle get stuck.
- Tire repair kit and pump.
- Candle, matches, heat sticks/packs, lighters, hand-warmers.
There are precautions you should take before leaving home and precautions to take on the road. Here are some.
- Check driving conditions and weather reports.
- Remove snow from the vehicle’s windows, lights, brake lights and signals.
- Let someone know your destination, route and expected time of travel.
- Drive below the speed limit, be cautious of black ice and leave plenty of space between you and the vehicles ahead of you.
- Brake early and slowly.
- Do not use cruise control on ice or snow.
If stranded You’ve slid off the road, or you’ve been in an accident, or your beloved vehicle has become stuck or is no longer working. Here are some precautions to keep you safe until rescuers arrive.
- Stay in your vehicle.
- Run the engine for 10 minutes every hour to stay warm.
- No cellphone? Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see.
- Light a flare or turn on a flashlight.
- Keep the overhead light on when the engine is running. Keep windows cracked.
- Keep the exhaust pipe free of blockage to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Use floor mats or seat covers for added warmth if you forgot to pack blankets. If you must leave your vehicle, secure a rope to yourself and the vehicle to avoid becoming lost or disoriented.