Winter driving can be extremely hazardous due to poor road conditions or reduced visibility from heavy or blowing snow or rain. During these times, travel is difficult if not dangerous, and often not recommended. However, many people still venture outdoors not knowing what they will encounter. This is why being properly prepared is a must--it may save your life and the lives of those traveling with you.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the leading cause of death during winter storms are transportation accidents. Preparations for the winter season and knowing how to react if stranded or lost on the road are the keys to safe winter traveling.
Before winter starts or you leave for a trip in the winter, have the following items checked on your car: Battery Antifreeze Wipers and windshield washer fluid Ignition system Thermostat Lights Flashing hazard lights Exhaust system Heater Brakes Defroster Oil level (if necessary, replace existing oil with a winter grade oil)
Check your tires to be sure they are road ready. Install tires that are appropriate for the driving conditions. In moderate amounts of snow, all weather radials will do the job nicely. If you live in an area where you have a lot of snow, consider snow tires. These have better tread to deal with snow and ice. Maintain a half tank of gasoline during the winter.
Prepare an emergency kit to keep in the back of your car. This will ensure that you are prepared in the event that you get stuck in the snow. Things to include in the kit: Ice scraper Small broom Small shovel Set of tire chains or traction mats Kitty litter or a bag of sand (to give traction if you get stuck in snow or ice) Blankets or a sleeping bag Flashlight with extra batteries Flares and/or warning triangles Plastic bags (for sanitation) First aid kit Tool kit Matches/candles Jumper cables Bright cloth to use as a flag Help sign for back window Extra hat and gloves or mittens Necessary medications Canned food (with hand can opener) and bottled water to sustain you A book, games, cards to keep you busy and calm in the event you get stuck Charged cell phone (always carry this, especially in the winter)
In the event your car gets stuck, stay with your vehicle. If you leave you may become disoriented and get lost in blowing and drifting snow. Put up the hood and tie your cloth to the antennae. Put the "need help" sign in the window. This will make you more visible to emergency vehicles and other drivers. Keep the windows, air grill and tail pipe clear of snow. Beware of carbon monoxide poisoning. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, and open a downwind window slightly for ventilation. Be aware that blowing or drifting snow can bury or seal a car shut. Wrap up in blankets or sleeping bags and, if there are others, huddle up with to stay warm. Run the heat for fifteen minutes each hour to keep from freezing. Move your body around to stay warm. Simple exercises, like those used on an airplane work well. Try not to stay in one position for too long.
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