Are You Prepared for a Winter Roadside Emergency?

Quite a few years ago when our kids were young, I was driving with my 6-year-old son in the backseat. 

It was snowing and the highway was slick, so I was driving about 10 miles per hour under the speed limit.

We were only about 15 minutes from home that night when the car engine died. I had to pull off to the side of the road. I’ll admit it… I was scared.

I used my cellphone to call 911. That 30-minute wait seemed like a couple of hours as I watched cars and trucks barreling past us. I repeatedly prayed they would not slide into us.

Stuff you really need to know

That story had a happy ending. We were rescued and my car was towed to the dealer’s location to be repaired. 

But it made me take another look at my preparedness level for those types of incidents. And it influenced me to be better prepared for winter roadside emergencies. 

Today I want to discuss some of the things you can do to be better prepared for such an occurrence. As well as what you can do once you’re in it.

This is the type of information everyone should know about. So please feel free to forward this email to family members and friends. 

5,000 annual road fatalities due to weather

First and foremost, if you can avoid driving or riding in a vehicle during winter weather events, please do so. Arriving somewhere you want to be a few hours or a day later than planned is better than not arriving at all. 

More than 5,000 fatalities occur on American roadways every year due to weather conditions. You do not want to be one of those statistics. 

If you must drive during a winter snowfall, make sure your vehicle is completely clear of ice and snow prior to your departure. Snow could fly off the top of your car and land on the windshield of a vehicle behind you. Also, make sure your wipers are working properly.

Let a family member or friend know when you’re leaving and where you’re headed. Including which route you’re planning to take. 

Slow down and stay alive 

Prior to leaving, make sure your cellphone is fully charged and your car charger is working. Also, keep an emergency car kit in your vehicle. Among the items that should be included are water, non-perishable food, at least one flashlight, a blanket, and extra clothing and coats. 

Once you’re out on the road, slow down. The speed limit is meant for perfect road conditions. If that irritates a driver behind you, so be it.

During snowfall, cars will skid much more easily. If this happens while you’re driving, try to remain calm. Ease your foot off the gas pedal and turn your wheels in the direction you want the front of your car to go. 

If you have an anti-lock braking system, don’t pump your brakes. Just apply steady pressure to the brake pedal.

If you’re having trouble seeing due to weather conditions, perhaps due to your defroster not working well enough, pull over to the side of the road. Stop until you have better visibility. 

Turn off your headlights so that drivers behind you will not see your rear lights and mistakenly follow your car. But if you have flashers and flares, use them.  

What to do if you’re stuck

Sometimes snowfall is so intense that it builds up quickly and causes vehicles to get stuck. If that happens, here are some things you can do to stay safe… 

  • Stay in your vehicle. Leaving your car can make you more vulnerable to injury. 
  • Turn your car on and run the heat for about 10 minutes each hour until help comes to stay warm. 
  • When it’s safe to do so, slip out of your car briefly to make sure there’s no snow in your exhaust pipe. A blockage could release toxic fumes into your car. 
  • Crack one of your car windows for some fresh air. This will help you avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Stay visible to rescuers. Turn on your inside dome light while the engine is running, or keep a flashlight on in your car. 
  • If you have a bright colored cloth, tie it to your antenna or door to attract attention.
  • Finally, when the snow stops, raise the hood of your car to indicate you need help.

If you have to wait for an extended period of time, move your arms and legs as much as possible to keep your blood circulating properly.

Your turn to take the wheel

Thanks for reading. I hope this information is helpful if you ever find yourself in a roadside emergency situation. 

But this is a two-way street. I’d love to learn from you as well. 

Have you ever had a winter roadside emergency? If so, please let our readers and me know what happened in the comments section below. As well as what you did to survive it. 

Stay safe out there. There is still plenty of winter weather ahead of us.

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