Car safety tips are there to make sure you get home safe and sound, especially during winter when the driving conditions leave something to be desired. However, road safety begins even before you get in your car and drive off into a blizzard.
First of all, why on earth are you driving into a blizzard? That’s unheard of unless you’re one of those people who chase storms for a living. The right thing to do, if the weather is acting up, is to avoid getting out of the house and into your car at all. Unfortunately, many of us need to be out on the road for different reasons, many of which is to bring home the bacon.
If you have to drive during winter, you need to take extra precautions. Learn different car safety tips that could help you survive and get home to your family just in case you get stuck in snow.
Preparing For the Snow
The most important of all car safety tips is to be prepared. If you’re into prepping, you already know how vita this step is. And if you’re someone who has been stuck in snow before, you’ve surely learned your lesson. Even before it starts snowing, you should prepare your vehicle.
Check Your Tires
Make sure your tires are in great condition. See if they’re properly inflated. On normal days, you should be using tires with the proper tread depth. Having worn out tires is an accident waiting to happen. If you live in a place where it always snows, you should have winter tires or tires that run well in such conditions.
You should know how to differentiate from an all-season tire and a winter or snow tire. M+S tires are tires that can be driven in mud and snow. However, it’s still recommended to use those with the Mountain Snowflake symbol. The mark is a figure of a three-leak mountain with a snowflake within. Tires with this symbol were tested and performed well in snowy conditions.
Winter tires are made of a hydrophilic rubber, a compound which retains its softness and pliability in winter conditions. The tread of the winter tires have a higher void-to-lug ratio than all-season tires. Plus, they use irregular and sharp-edged tread designs.
You should also invest on tire chains, especially if you’re on icy roads all the time or if you drive through snowy mountains. However, these tire chains are not necessary on normal days. Just keep them in your trunk and put them on your tires when needed.
Fill ‘Er Up
You never want to run out of gas while on the road during cold or snowy weather. If you don’t keep spare fuel in your trunk, you’ll be forced to leave your car and look for the nearest pumping station. This is a huge risk given the inclement weather. To avoid this scenario, always fill your tank or at least keep it half full all the time.
Check the news for information on the weather. If the weather is really bad, don’t risk going out anymore. Your life is more important than wherever it is you have to go to. If you really have to go, make sure you tell someone where you’re going and what time you expect to reach your destination. If there’s no one at home, leave a note or a text message. Before leaving, check your emergency kit. Also, bring enough food and water in case your drive takes longer than usual.
You may also want to include a small hand-crank or battery-operated radio in your emergency kit. This will keep you up-to-date in case a snow storm develops along the path your taking. Don’t forget extra batteries so you can keep listening even if you have to stop the night (or nights).
Car Emergency Kit for Cold Weather
In case something goes wrong, your survival will depend on what you know and what you have.
Aside from your tire chains, you should have a snow shovel in your trunk. One of the most common winter problems is the inches of snow that usually comes with it. Avoid getting stuck in snow by having a snow shovel handy.
Food and Water
It goes without saying that you need food and water to survive. Make sure you have more than enough in your car for your travel. If your drive will take a couple of days, pack food and water for four days or more.
You’re driving out in the cold so it should be a no-brainer that you need warm clothes. Aside from the ones you’re wearing, bring extra warm clothing.
Include all or any of the following: thermal underwear, baselayer, long-sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, jacket, fleece-lined pants, hat, beanie, ear muffs, gloves or mittens, wool socks (preferably knee-high), and snow boots.
The most important car safety tips when you’re trying to survive the cold in your car are to stay warm and dry. Aside from your warm clothes, you should also have a sleeping bag, wool blanket, poncho and a thermal blanket. In fact, you should have more than one of these emergency blankets.
When you’re stranded in the middle of a snow storm, cover your windows from the inside with your thermal blankets and some duct tape. This will trap the heat inside.
Once the storm passes and you still can’t drive away, you should be able to start a fire. Make sure you have waterproof matches, other fire starters, and tinder in your car emergency kit. Build your fire near the entrance of your tent, which should be among the survival gear in your emergency kit. Take care of your fire once you got it going. Gradually add firewood so it won’t die down.
Other items you should keep in your car emergency kit include a flashlight, headlamp, emergency whistle, signal mirror, multi-tool, knife, paracord, compass, and such. You should also have a first aid kit, in case something untoward happens.
Your car should also have its usual emergency gear such as tools and a spare tire. Reflective signs and warning triangles will make it easier for other drivers or rescuers to spot you.
Driving During Winter
Don’t Drive When You’re Tired
For obvious reasons, you should avoid taking the wheel when you’re exhausted. The risks get even higher when its winter and the roads are covered in snow or ice. If you’ve been driving and you start feeling sleepy or fatigue sets in, find the safest place you can stop and rest for a while. Ideally, you should stop at a gasoline station or a commercial truck stop if you’re driving a rig.
Don’t Drive Too Fast
Going full on “Fast and the Furious” on a winter’s day is a huge no-no. While driving, make sure you accelerate and decelerate slowly. Don’t hurry things up. When you’re approaching a stop, slow down from a farther distance than normal and then brake slowly.
Other Things to Avoid
Avoid using cruise control when the road is wet or frozen. You should also avoid using your parking brake during snowy weather. If you’re going up a hill, never stop.
When Your Car is Stuck in Snow
Survey the Situation
If your car gets stuck in sow, don’t panic. First, survey the situation. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, you should try calling someone to inform them of your predicament. Cut the call short to preserve your battery but make sure you give out all the important details such as your location, destination, the status of your vehicle, and if you have supplies with you. After the call, just send text messages if you need to tell your loved ones something.
Surviving a Snow Storm
If there’s a snow storm, it’s best you stay inside your vehicle and stay as warm as possible. Never attempt to leave your car to get help or find shelter unless there is one nearby. Your car is a good enough shelter. Also, make sure your car stays visible. Set up your warning devices. Get a piece of colorful clothing and place it somewhere on your car where it can easily be spotted. You can tie it to a stick and tie it to your side mirror or plant it right beside your car. Don’t forget to call for help.
Stay as warm as possible. Wear extra layers of clothing and cover yourself with a blanket. Tape your thermal blankets around the interior, as mentioned earlier.
Dig, Dig, Dig
To get out of your snowy situation, you’ll need to dig around your drive tires. Dig out the snow at the front, back and underneath your tires. If you don’t have tire chains on, this is the perfect time to put them on. You also need to dig a few feet in front and behind your wheels to make a path for your car to move. If the snow is too high and is blocking your car, you’ll need to do a lot more digging. It’s a good thing that you have your trusty snow shovel in your trunk, right?
If you managed to ignore the first part of this article and didn’t bring a snow shovel with you, you can still dig your tires out using a screwdriver or any other tool you can find. Even if you can’t dig the snow out completely, you can at least break the ice so your wheels can get a bit of traction.
Check your tail pipe, as well. You might need to do some digging there, too. Make sure your tail pipe is not blocked by ice before you turn your engine on. There’s the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if you fail to unblock your tail pipe.
Moving Your Car
Once you’re done with all that digging, it’s time to get your car going. There are two ways you can drive away if you’re all alone. First is the forward-and-back technique. Once you’re in your car and the engine is running, open the windows and stick your head out. You will need to see and hear clearly.
Straighten the wheel then put your car in the lowest gear before going forward a bit. Back the car up slowly without revving your engine. Stop and step on the gas a bit as you move forward. Keep doing this until your tire gets traction and you’re able to break free.
Be wary of your tire spinning. You may not see it clearly so you better listen intently. Take your foot off the gas as soon as you hear your tire spinning.
If the first method isn’t working, try the braking technique. You just have to step on the brakes and the gas at the same time. Just give it a little gas so your tires won’t spin that much.
Be careful not to overdo this. If you spend more than a few seconds doing this technique, you can end up with overheated brakes.
Check out The Gentleman Pirate to see more posts on winter survival. The one below talks about the ways you can stay safe and warm while out camping in the snow.
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