It’s somehow already that time of year again. Fall has flown by and the winter holidays are quickly approaching. If your holiday plans include travel by vehicle, brush up on these helpful safety tips!
Winter Weather Readiness
Prior to your trip, it’s a good idea to make sure that your car is in good condition. Basic things to check include the oil level, tire pressure, headlights, tail lights, turn signals, and brake lights. Before departing filling your gas tank completely, planning your route in advance, and making sure you have plenty of money for any tolls you may encounter will also be helpful.
It’s important to be prepared before you hit the road with a Winter Emergency Kit for your vehicle. Basic items to pack include ice scrapers, battery booster cables, blankets, extra coats, gloves, water, non-perishable food, flashlight, and a bag of sand or cat litter in your trunk.
Winter Driving Safety
Before you venture out, review these safety tips from the Missouri State Highway Patrol:
- Follow the local weather forecast and traffic reports. Plan travel during times when snow or icing are not in the forecast. Avoid unnecessary travel.
- Check your state’s department of transportation for road conditions.
- Allow extra travel time and expect delays.
- Reduce speed and increase following distance. Drive based on conditions, not the posted speed limit.
- Focus 100 percent on driving because you have less control of your vehicle and less visibility. Use your headlights to increase your visibility to other drivers.
- Understand that bridges and overpasses often ice over sooner than other parts of the road.
- Keep your gas tank at least half full.
- Travel with a fully charged cell phone. Park your vehicle before calling if you need help.
- Clear your vehicle’s windows completely before driving to ensure visibility.
- Never overreact or slam on the brakes. If you begin to slide, steer in the direction of the slide to regain control of the vehicle.
- Understand 4-wheel-drive vehicles may provide extra traction to get a vehicle moving in snow, but they are not better at braking or handling turns.
- If you must travel in a snowstorm, let others know about your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
- If you become stranded in deep snow and are idling the engine to keep warm, be sure to keep the area around the tailpipe clear to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning inside the vehicle. Also, open a window slightly to let in fresh air.
If there is winter weather, you will likely come across snowplows working to clear the roads. Remember that a snowplow operator’s field of vision is restricted. You may see them, but they may not see you.
Here are some safety tips from the Missouri Department of Transportation on how to safely share the road with snowplows:
- Give snowplows room to work; don’t tailgate or try to pass.
- A “strike team” may include several plow trucks, some with TowPlows and wing plows, and block all lanes on a major highway.
- Stay at least four car lengths back from snowplows and equipment.
- Plowed snow can create a cloud that can blind drivers following too close.
- Spreaders on trucks can throw salt, sand or cinders that can damage close-following vehicles.
- Salt brine trucks have a sign on the back warning motorist to “Liquid Salt, Stay Back.” That is for your safety as well as the drivers. They can’t see you and the brine sprays across three traffic lanes whether you are driving in them or not.
- Plow truck operators have to focus on snow removal and cannot always watch out for the drivers surrounding them, which means they may not see you if you try to pass or even collide with equipment.
- Drive even more slowly in construction zones, even though they are inactive in winter weather.
- Always have your headlights on, plenty of fuel and wiper fluid and tires with ample tread.
Safety When Stranded
According to the state of Missouri’s website, if you become stranded, staying in your vehicle is often the safest choice, especially if winter storms create visibility so poor that you can’t see or if roadways are ice covered.
These steps will increase your safety when stranded:
- Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna as a signal to rescuers.
- Move anything you need from the trunk into the passenger area.
- Wrap your entire body, including your head, in extra clothing or blankets.
- Stay awake. You will be less vulnerable to cold-related health problems.
- Run the motor (and heater) for about 10 minutes per hour, opening one window slightly to let in air. Make sure that snow is not blocking the exhaust pipe—this will reduce the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to improve your circulation and stay warmer.
- Do not eat unmelted snow because it will lower your body temperature.
- Huddle with other people for warmth.
Wishing everyone safe travels this holiday season!