Winter can be a dangerous time for drivers because of all the heavy snow conditions that clutter up the road. You have inches of snow and ice that can make it difficult for any driver to drive their car safely. But sometimes you can do everything right as a driver and still encounter a problem, such as your car breaking down in a heavy snow storm. Perhaps you are far from civilization when this happens as well. This means you have no luxury of flagging down someone to help you out or let you use their phone. Instead, you are all alone in this uncomfortable situation and will have to depend on yourself in order to get out of it safely.
In these modern times, it should go without saying that you should always have a cell phone with you at all times. It is the perfect wireless link of communication to the outside world, especially if you are stranded somewhere. Now, of course, you might not get a signal on your cell phone if you are in the middle of a terrible storm while stranded. In this case, wait inside your car until the storm passes. Just because your car breaks down doesn’t mean you can’t stay in your car to keep warm. Plus, you might also have a heater in your car that still works. Remember, when a car breaks down it doesn’t always have to do with the battery. As long as you still have power in the battery, then turn the key and turn on the heat. You should also roll down the window a little bit because the snow may be blocking your tailpipe, which could cause carbon monoxide to build up in your car. Wait until the storm passes and then try your cell phone again because you may get a signal with clearer skies. Call for help and have them come to your location to pick you up.
Now let’s assume you don’t have your phone or you cannot get a signal. You have two choices in this situation. You can either continue to wait for help to arrive or you can journey off on foot towards civilization. Both can be risky choices, so you have to plan carefully. If you are in a location where people don’t normally go or if you know nobody is going to be looking for you, then you mine as well walk on foot. But if you think there is a slight chance that someone could come around and find you then stay in your car until they do.
The safest place if you are caught in a snowstorm while driving is in your vehicle. Sudden blizzards accompanied by high winds can cause whiteout conditions, and you can become disorientated and lost just feet from your vehicle. Stay inside and when you have to go out to make sure the tail pipe is not clogged with snow. Keep one hand on the vehicle or tie a rope to you and the car’s door handle. You cannot run your engine if the exhaust pipe is obstructed with snow or vegetation. Make sure to have a window down a few inches when running the engine. Once you become stranded run the car’s engine for ten minutes every 45 minutes to an hour.
Preparing Your Vehicle
Always keep the vehicles’ gas tank topped off, this ensures you have fuel if you become stranded and it also prevents moisture build up in the lines that can freeze and prevent you from starting the engine. The following is a list of essentials you should always have in your car when traveling in the wintertime.
• Three days of high protein foods that can be eaten as is, such as Meals Ready to Eat (MRE’s), protein bars, hard chocolate and trail mix
• 72-hour supply of water protected from freezing, place in Styrofoam coolers with newspaper or clothing for insulation
• Tire chains and traction pads, sand or cat litter for traction
• Small shovel
• Glow Lights the kind that you snap and shake
• Cell phone and charger/extra battery even if the phone does not have a carrier if charged the phone can dial 911
• Two thermal or wool blankets and/or sleeping bag
• Snow boots, heavy coat, gloves and hat
• Signal material such as brightly colored cloth or signal flags that can be held in place by closing a rear window on the material, used to signal rescue personnel
• Jumper/battery cables and/or a battery box with power converter and jump start cables attached
• Tools for minor car repair, duct tape, gallon of anti-freeze and extra motor oil
• Knife and multi-tool
• Matches, lighter and alternative fire starting materials such as a magnesium stick
• First aid supplies
• Snow brush and ice scraper
• Maps of the area along with a compass
• Flashlight and avoid lights that use the vehicles’ battery
• Nylon tow rope and avoid chains or steel cables for towing, they can snap and whip around causing serious injury if used to pull a vehicle
If possible, get signal fires going near the vehicle. Smoke can be seen for miles during the day and the flames can be seen at night. Keep wrapped in blankets to prevent body heat from conducting away from your body. Hypothermia is dangerous and can be a fatal condition if you