Watch for Black Ice

So far we have had a very mild winter, but that could change at anytime.  Winter can bring challenging road conditions, making the mundane commute to work a nightmare or a winter storm can pop up out of nowhere making the trip to Grandma & Grandpa’s something for superheros to endure.

The amount of safety features being added to our vehicles is always growing, but we have some tips that those safety features can’t touch.  Some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe no matter where you are traveling.

Get the Weather Report:

In the morning checking the temperature is important. You may need to allow your car to warm up before you head out to work. Let the engine get warmed up as well as the fluids in the engine that allow it to run efficiently.

Check the weather along your route, not just home.  Get an idea of what to expect while you are out on the roadways.  If there is a storm lingering near, by checking the weather ahead of time you may be better off to postpone your travels until after the storm passes.

If you do still need to head out and there is a storm coming then try to share you travel plans before you leave.  

Preparing Your Car:

Checking your car out before the weather starts to change can be beneficial as well.

    • Brakes
    • Tires
    • windshield wiper fluid
    • Filters
    • fuel levels
  • Antifreeze levels

Don’t Leave Home Without:

The National Safety Council suggests to have these items with you at all times, not just in the winter, because an emergency situation can pop up at any time:

    • Properly inflated spare tire
    • Shovel
    • Jumper cables
    • Tow chain
    • Bag of salt/kitty litter for better traction or to melt snow
    • Tool kit
    • Flashlight & extra batteries
    • Reflective triangle
    • Compass
    • First aid kit
    • Windshield cleaner
    • Ice scraper
    • Matches (in waterproof container)
    • Scissors & string/cord
    • Nonperishable, high-energy food like unsalted, canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy
  • Blankets, mittens, socks, and hats

Tips to Avoid a Crash:

First and foremost, if driving conditions deteriorate and visibility is effected do yourself a huge favor and just pull over and wait for the conditions to improve.  Especially in whiteout conditions, find a safe space to pull over and don’t even attempt to drive.

Sometimes especially in winter conditions can change, or a patch of ice catches us off guard.  AAA offers some great tips to stay safe during a skid or if you find yourself sliding towards another vehicle/object:

    • Avoid driving if you are tired
    • Accelerate & decelerate slowly
    • Increase following distance/braking distance
    • Drive slowly, turn slowly, stop slowly
    • Don’t use cruise controls
    • Look and steer where you want to go
    • Beaware of your anti-lock brake system.  It will pump the breaks for you in a skid, but may feel weird if you haven’t experienced it before
  • Don’t stop completely if you can avoid it (example: you notice a light ahead is changing soon, apply break further back and slowly glide to light.)

Should you get stuck:

It’s not a scenario that any of us want to be in, but it’s better to have a plan ahead of time versus making up a plan as you go.  If you get stuck on a roadside in a storm don’t leave you car.  You car is providing you a shelter, and is a safe place.  It is also a great beacon for any one coming to rescue you.  

If you have a brightly colored piece of cloth you can tie to you antenna will let others know that there are people in the vehicle as well.  Being in the mid-west I haven’t heard of anyone needing to do this, but just a good piece of advice to keep in your back pocket.

Be creative with the resources in your car to keep warm.  Try not to run the car to long so you can conserve gasoline.

Trips, even winter road trips, are always fun.  They are a great way to spend time and enjoy family as well as friends.  Being prepared can help ensure all is safe.