Winter Is Getting Serious: What to Know if You’re Driving

Before you venture out into uncertain winter conditions, build your car's emergency kit and know safe winter driving procedures. It could save your life.

Winter Is Getting Serious: What to Know if You’re Driving Photo (cc) by Sergey Galyonkin

Winter is setting in for real — and with the historic , there are blizzards, ice, high winds, rain and general chaos.

The question is, are you prepared to go out? One thing to consider is to avoid being out on the roads when conditions are hazardous. However, if you feel you need to drive, be sure to check your auto’s emergency kit. If you’re ever stranded, the supplies will at least make you more comfortable and could save your life.

Here are ideas for your car kit from our often snowbound friends at .

  • Shovel, snow scraper and small broom
  • Flashlight with extra batteries (make sure batteries are fresh)
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Water
  • Raisins and mini candy bars
  • Extra hats, socks, mittens
  • First aid kit with pocketknife
  • Necessary medications
  • Hand-warming packets
  • Blankets or sleeping bag
  • Tow chain or rope
  • Road salt, sand or cat litter for traction
  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency flares and reflectors
  • Fluorescent distress flag and whistle to attract attention
  • Cellphone adapter
  • Rags or paper towels
  • Tire chains

Again, the safest course is to stay off the roads — particularly if you are not accustomed to driving in hazardous conditions. But if you can’t avoid being out, , including:

  • To avoid the buildup of dangerous fumes, never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up
  • Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface (wet, ice, sand).
  • Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
  • Know your brakes. Whether you have anti-lock brakes or not, the best way to stop is to use threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal, just to the “threshold” of the brakes locking up.

Are you hunkering down in the wake of the bomb cyclone? Share your experiences and ideas in comments below or on our .

Nancy Dunham
Nancy Dunham

Nancy Dunham is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, D.C., metro area.

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