Winter has arrived and with it all the cold, icy trappings. While some of us might love the beauty of the snow and the recreational activities that go along with it, most of us don’t love the driving conditions winter weather creates. If you live in an area of the country that gets a lot of snow, it’s important that you be prepared for hazardous snow conditions. You can do this by storing essential emergency supplies in the trunk of your car and knowing what to do if you find yourself stuck in your car in the snow. What follows is your guide to being prepared for winter driving.
Essential Items for Winter Driving
It’s not big news that winter driving can be very dangerous. In order to be prepared for the hazardous situations that can occur as a result of winter conditions, having some emergency items in the trunk of your car whenever you drive in the snow can be life-saving. To start off with, you should always have a small supply of non-perishable energy foods and drinking water with you when you drive. You should also have items to keep you warm, including blankets or sleeping bags and an extra coat, pair of gloves, warm socks, and hat for every person who usually rides in the car. Gathering these items and taking up precious trunk space might seem inconvenient now, but if you are ever stuck in your car in extreme weather conditions, you don’t know how long you will have to wait for help to find you.
In addition to food, water, and warmth, you’ll also want to have some other items to make snowy situations easier to get out of. These include an emergency flag or flares to let others know you are there and need help, a small shovel to dig snow out from around your tailpipe or other parts of the car if necessary, a windshield scraper, a first aid kit, a tow rope, a fully-charged phone, a bag of sand for traction, prescription medications, a flashlight and batteries, a tin can and candle, and matches (these last three items are for melting snow to drink water).
Remember, in extreme snow storms, rescuers are very busy, and it can be a very long time before they find you. If you have the right supplies with you, you can keep yourself safe until they do.
What to Do If You Become Trapped in a Blizzard in Your Car
During extreme snow storms, the best advice is to not drive. If you must go somewhere and you find yourself stuck in a blizzard, here are a few tips to follow to keep you alive.
1. Stay in your car. In a blizzard, it is really easy to get disoriented and become lost. Only leave your car if you can see a building very close by. Otherwise, stay in your car and wait for rescuers to find you. Remember, it is much harder for rescuers to find a lone walker out in the middle of the snow than to find a car.
2. Stay calm. If you are prepared and know what you’re doing, chances are good that you are going to be fine. Any time you are faced with a survival situation, a positive attitude gives you a much better chance of making it through unscathed. The storm will end, and help will come.
3. Run your heat off and on, but not for too long at a time in order to conserve gas. Most experts recommend running the heat for 10-15 minutes for every hour you are in the car. Any time you run the heat, make sure your tailpipe is free of snow to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Also keep a window slightly cracked while you are running your heat.
4. Let others know you are stranded. If you have emergency flags or flares, put those out. If not, tie a red or orange piece of cloth on your antenna. If it is nighttime, turn the interior light or your hazard lights on so that rescuers can find you. When the snow stops, stamp “help” in the snow and lift the hood of your car to signal distress.
5. Keep yourself warm by moving around in the car as much as possible. Stomp your feet, wave your arms around, even do pushups or sit-ups in the back seat if you are in pretty good shape. However, don’t do so much that you start to sweat; sweat will make you chilled. Also, don’t do so much that you overexert. In extreme cold conditions, the cold plus extreme exertion can equal a heart attack. Just keep yourself moving so that your blood is flowing well.
6. Stay awake if possible. If there is more than one person in the car, take shifts staying awake so you can watch for help.
7. Conserve. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you don’t have any idea how long it will be until help arrives. Conserve batteries on your phone by only using it to call for help. Conserve food supplies and water supplies as well. Depending on your location, you could be there for a while.
8. Stay hydrated. If you don’t have water with you, you can use snow, but don’t eat snow directly as it will lower your body temperature even more. Put it in some kind of container if you have one and melt it and then drink it. Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
9. Keep your seatbelt on as much as possible so that if other cars run into you, you will be in a restraint. Remember that your car will be hard to see, and the roads will be very hard to drive on.
10. Use floor mats, seat covers, road maps, or anything else you have to keep warm if you have no blankets. One man stuck in his car for days ripped off the interior lining of his car and used this to keep himself warm.
Driving in winter weather is inherently dangerous, but if you are prepared with the right supplies and the knowledge of what to do if you become stuck, you don’t need to find yourself in an unnecessary and scary situation.