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Safety Guide for Winter Traveling

Driving, specifically, in the winter can mean dangerously cold temperatures and hazardous road conditions which are a factor in nearly half a million crashes and more than 2,000 road deaths every winter, according to research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Below are some tips from AAA and the National Safety Council to help get you and your family home safely for the holidays!

Before leaving on your trip, make sure to be prepared, especially if traveling long distances!

  1. Vehicle Inspection. Have your vehicle thoroughly checked to ensure systems are running properly, especially brakes, tires, and antifreeze.
  2. Weather. Check the forecast along your route and consider delaying your trip if bad weather is expected.
  3. Stay Connected. Notify others of your route, destination, and estimated time of arrival. Also, put important emergency phone numbers into your contacts such as your auto insurance or towing companies.
  4. Emergency Supply Kit. Pack and always leave necessities in your vehicle. Check every 6 months and replace expired items. Items in your winter kit should include:
    • Cold weather gear such as hats, gloves, hand warmers, warm clothing, socks, and blankets. For longer trips, consider bringing winter boots and sleeping bags.
    • Non-perishable, high energy food such as unsalted and canned nuts, granola bars, raisins, and dried fruit, peanut butter, and bottled water.
    • Phone charger, spare cash, and a flashlight with extra batteries
    • First aid kit, multi-tool such as a Leatherman or Swiss Army knife, and duct tape
    • Lighter or a box of matches in a waterproof container
    • Glass scraper and/or snow brush, extra windshield washer fluid, and antifreeze
    • Jumper cables
    • Tire pressure gauge, inflated spare tire, tripod jack, and wheel wrench to change tires
    • Foam tire sealant for minor tire punctures
    • Road flares, reflective warning triangles, or brightly colored cloth to make you or your vehicle more visible.
    • Bag of sand or non-clumping cat litter to use for tire traction. Floor mats can be used as well in a pinch.

Throughout your road trip, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Be sure to always keep at least a half tank of fuel in your vehicle.
  2. Be cautious of black ice, even when roads seem clear.
  3. Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface, such as ice or snow.
  4. Increase your following distance to 10 seconds; accelerate and decelerate slowly.
  5. If you do become stranded or stuck:
    • Stay with your vehicle. This provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Do not try to walk in a severe storm; it is easy to lose sight of your vehicle and become lost.
    • Be Visible. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna of your vehicle or place a cloth at the top of a rolled-up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible; this uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
    • Clear the Exhaust Pipe. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice or mud to avoid a deadly carbon monoxide gas leak into the passenger compartment of the vehicle while the engine is running.
    • Stay Warm. Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold.
    • Conserve Fuel. If possible, only run the engine and heater long enough to remove the chill.

Although no one wants to think about them, being prepared for worst-case scenarios can be lifesaving. Having the essentials can make a minor inconvenience even more manageable. Consider these tips as you plan your holiday travels and have a safe and wonderful holiday season!