How to Be Safe Behind the Wheel this Winter

How to Be Safe Behind the Wheel this Winter

Winter has arrived with a bang in Colorado. The weather has turned snowy and COLD. That’s great news for winter sports enthusiasts, but not so great  on the road.

Whether you’re heading to the mountains for skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling, or whether you just need to commute across town to work, here are some smart tips to help you stay safe behind the wheel this winter and avoid becoming a casualty of winter weather.

A primary concern during winter storms and extreme cold is commuting safely. Most businesses, events and activities will only close down during the worst storms or extreme temperatures during winter. Because of this, it’s important that vehicles are properly prepared for winter conditions to make commuting in these conditions as safe as possible.

Know Before You Go

Check weather and traffic conditions before you head out. Plan your route in advance, keeping in mind which roads may or may not be plowed. Be sure you have warm outerwear and sturdy shoes or boots with you in case you need to walk or be outside your vehicle.

Winterize Your Vehicle

Check or have a mechanic check the following items on your car:

  • Antifreeze levels—ensure they are sufficient to avoid freezing.
  • Battery and ignition system should be in top condition, and battery terminals should be clean.
  • Brakes—check for wear and fluid levels.
  • Exhaust system—check for leaks and crimped pipes, and repair or replace as necessary. Carbon monoxide is deadly and usually gives no warning.
  • Fuel and air filters—replace filters and keep water out of the system by using additives and maintaining a full tank of gas. A full tank will keep the fuel line from freezing.
  • Heater and defroster—ensure they work properly.
  • Lights and flashing hazard lights—check for serviceability.
  • Oil—check for level and weight. Heavier oils congeal at low temperatures and do not lubricate as well.
  • Thermostat—ensure it works properly.
  • Windshield wiper equipment—repair any problems and maintain proper washer fluid level.
  • Install good winter tires— All-weather radials are usually adequate for most winter conditions, though some areas may require snow tires. Make sure your tires have adequate tread. The Colorado State Patrol recommends letting “George” be your guide. Place a quarter upside down into the tire tread, with Washington’s head going in first. If the top of George’s head is covered by the tread at various points around the tire, your radials are road-ready for a trip to the mountains. But if the top of his head is visible at any point around the tire, you need new tires—and here in Colorado, you need to carry chains if you’re heading into the mountains.

Update the emergency kit in your vehicle with the following:

  • A shovel
  • Windshield scraper and snow brush
  • Flashlight
  • Battery-powered radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Water
  • Non-perishable snack food
  • Matches and a candle
  • Extra hats, socks and mittens
  • First aid kit with pocket knife
  • Necessary medications
  • Blanket(s)
  • Tow chain or rope
  • Road salt and sand
  • Booster cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Fluorescent distress flag

If You Are Stranded in a Vehicle

If Your Car Becomes Disabled:

  • Pull off the highway. Turn on the hazard lights and hang a distress flag from the radio antenna or window.
  • Remain in your vehicle where rescuers are most likely to find you. Do not set out on foot unless you can see a building close by where you know you can take shelter. Be careful—distances are distorted by blowing snow. A building may seem close, but be too far to walk to in deep snow.
  • Run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is running, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and periodically clear snow from the exhaust pipe. This will protect you from carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Exercise to maintain your body heat, but avoid overexertion. In extreme cold, use road maps, seat covers and floor mats for insulation. Huddle with passengers and use your coat for a blanket.
  • Take turns sleeping. One person should be awake at all times to look for rescue crews.
  • Eat regularly and drink ample fluids to avoid dehydration, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.
  • Be careful not to waste battery power. Balance electrical energy needs—the use of lights, heat and radio—with supply.
  • Turn on the inside light at night so work crews or rescuers can see you.
  • If stranded in a remote area, stomp large block letters in an open area spelling out HELP or SOS and line with rocks or tree limbs to attract the attention of rescue personnel who may be surveying the area by air.
  • Leave the car and proceed on foot—if necessary—once the blizzard passes.

In addition to insuring your health and business, Roper Insurance & Financial Services is committed to helping you and your loved ones stay safe when disaster strikes. If you would like more information on developing a family emergency plan or building a disaster supply kit, please contact us at (303) 721-1145 or email us at [email protected] today.

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