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I can tell you that I know a lot of this from experience! My friend Julie and I were on a Chicago Trip with our Daughters for a Wisconsin Parent story and, on the way back, we were on the side of the Illinois tollway in freezing weather and a dead car. We had some of this in Julie’s car – and our kiddos were nice and toasty, but we weren’t. It doesn’t take long to have that body temperature drop!
Much of the country is blanketed in snow or facing winter weather advisories left and right. Some families use this time of year to escape the cold for warm weather destinations, while others embrace the winter wonderland and opt for wintery destinations. Wherever you’re going there are a few tips, and a few precautions to keep in mind when traveling by car this time of year.
It can feel like one more thing to add a safety kit into your vehicle when it’s loaded up with suitcases and other travel gear. However, including a safety and survival kit is incredibly important. What should your kit include? According to the National Weather Service these items should be in your vehicle at all times during winter weather travel;
- Blankets/sleeping bags
- Flashlight with extra batteries or crank powered
- First-aid kit
- High-calorie, non-perishable food
- Extra clothing to keep dry
- An empty can and plastic cover with tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes
- A can, candles and water-proof matches to melt snow for drinking water
- Sack of sand (or cat litter) to help gain traction if stuck in snow or ice
- Windshield scraper and brush
- Tool kit including tow rope and booster cables
- Water container
- Compass and road maps – cell phone batteries and GPS systems can die quickly
If you are traveling with several people, then make sure to have enough extra clothing and blankets for everyone. You may also want to consider keeping a pair of winter boots in the car for everyone, should you need them.
When driving in winter weather conditions, slow down! Often times road conditions can be worse than they appear and hitting a small patch of ice can lead to your vehicle spiraling out of control. Also take care to stop often to fill your tank. Having as much gas as possible, and at least ¾ of a tank at all times can be a true life saver if you become stranded.
What should you do if stranded?
DO NOT leave your vehicle. It will be much easier for people to see a car than a person in the snow. The only times you should leave your vehicle is you know your surroundings and are certain you can walk to safety. Or, if it is a last resort and your only means of survival.
DO stay buckled. If you’re on the side of the road and conditions are bad, there is a risk that other drivers could hit or slide into your vehicle.
DO open the back window a crack. It is possible for the tail pipe of your car to become blocked with snow. This can lead to carbon monoxide fumes entering the vehicle if it is running. Having the window opened slightly allows the gas to escape.
DO turn your engine for 10-15 minutes each hour. By doing this you can heat the car, or melt snow for water. By only running the car sporadically you will conserve gas and conserve engine and battery power.
Most importantly, do not panic. In a situation like this, it won’t matter what you’ve got in the car to survive. Panicking will stop you from thinking straight and can lead to deadly mistakes.
I have a FREE printable for you — to help keep your car and family safe – please share it with everyone you know who needs to think/plan for the rare possibility that they would need it. It could save a life.