What’s in your winter driving survival kit?

During the mild weather, being stranded on the side of the road is an inconvenience. But during the cold, dark days of winter, having your car break down in a remote area can be dangerous, or even life threatening.

Before you head out in your vehicle, especially when winter weather threatens, make sure it’s in good operating order. Check your tires, brakes, windshield wipers, headlights and tail lights, battery and fluid levels throughout the season, or have a mechanic do this for you. And before you leave on a longer trip, tell a family member or friend where you’re going and when you plan to get there, then call them when you reach your destination to confirm that you’ve arrived.

Should you find yourself driving in snowy or icy conditions, slow down to at least half your normal speed and use a lower gear. But don’t risk stopping as you head up a hill; build up some momentum before your vehicle starts climbing. Be mindful of road crews working to clear roads and avoid any abrupt steering maneuvers.

If at any point you feel the conditions are too bad to continue driving, find a safe place to pull over and simply stay put. Should your vehicle break down or you decide to pull off the road due to adverse conditions, having a well-equipped winter emergency survival kit will make all the difference.

Here are some recommended items:

  • Ice scraper, snow brush, rags and paper towels
  • Blankets and extra clothing, including waterproof boots and gloves
  • Non-perishable, high-calorie food and bottled water
  • Flashlight with extra batteries and flares or roadway reflectors
  • A basic first-aid kit
  • Mobile phone with a backup power source
  • Jumper cables and no-freeze windshield washer fluid
  • Bag of sand, gravel or cat litter for extra traction

If you’re stranded in a sparsely populated area, stay in your vehicle until conditions improve or until help arrives. Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm while conserving your battery and gasoline. Make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow or other obstructions and crack one of the car windows slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. If needed, move around and exercise to help maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion. To make your vehicle more noticeable, turn on the dome light and/or flashers or attach a bright cloth outside your car. Finally, resist the temptation to accept a ride from a stranger. Instead, ask them to notify local police if you don’t have a mobile phone or are stranded in an area with no signal.

Having a well-equipped winter driving survival kit and following these recommendations will help ensure you eventually make it home safe and sound!

Sources: www.ready.gov, www.aaa.com