Growing up in high school in the High Sierra’s we were taught to always be safe in winter driving and always to be prepared just in case. With the recent pounding of snowstorms that have hit the PNW and watching some of our local highways and passes being shut down, this is just a quick reminder that winter driving safety is usually about keeping your car on the road in slippery conditions, but sometimes the weather is so severe that drivers get trapped on the road alone or in traffic for hours, sometimes overnight.
It’s a rare but dangerous situation that could lead to frostbite, hypothermia and even death for those who aren’t ready to wait to be rescued or for the road to be cleared.
The American Red Cross offers several tips to prepare for the worst and what to do when it happens:
First and foremost, it’s never a bad idea to have an emergency kit stashed in your car with things like blankets, flashlights, nonperishable foods, liquids and extra batteries. These can come in handy whether your car is stuck in freezing weather or broken down in a remote location.
If you are caught in snow and shelter or help isn’t visible within 100 yards, the best thing to do is stay in your vehicle to avoid exposure. If possible, put a brightly colored cloth out of your window or tied to your antenna to indicate distress.
In cold temperatures, run the vehicle no more than 10 minutes every hour to heat the cabin to preserve fuel, especially if the tank isn’t full. Also, make sure that the exhaust pipe is clear and the windows cracked open to avoid letting exhaust fumes in, although these steps are unnecessary in an electric vehicle.
Keep covered and huddle together with others in the car to preserve heat in extreme freezing temperatures. Move your arms and legs occasionally and remember to stay hydrated.
Try not to sleep if you’re alone, but if you’re stranded for an extended period of time and there are several passengers in the vehicle, take turns sleeping and keep an eye on each other.