Staying safe this winter season

Safe winter drivingWinter weather started early this year and we saw news clips from around the country of vehicles slipping, sliding, spinning, and – in some cases – tumbling into ditches or medians. These aren’t pretty sights for anyone.

Of course, the best advice, the advice heard most often, is to just stay put, wherever you are (hopefully in the comfort and warmth of your home). But sometimes that’s not possible.

When staying home isn’t an option, taking the time to ensure you pack a few extra items can make a significant difference if something does happen during your travels. And, if you follow Murphy’s Law, bad things only happen to the unprepared. Look at taking 15 minutes to toss a few extra items in the car as your “insurance policy” against Murphy’s Law.

  • If you’re traveling a long way or staying for a few days, you’ve probably already got additional clothing packed. Either way, extra warm layers are always good.
  • Toss some blankets in the car, if you don’t already have some in there—warm ones.
  • Take extra socks, mittens/gloves, hats (stocking caps, if you have them) and scarves—even more than you’ve already got packed.
  • Granola bars and trail mix are great road trip snacks anyway, but they’re even better “in case of emergency” food. Pack extra. And some bottles of water too.
  • If you’re traveling to an area where you know there is snow and ice, consider chains for your tires and a bag of sidewalk salt. Or, believe it or not, a bag of kitty litter works wonders if you get stuck in a slippery situation.

Once you’re on the road, there are any number of “safe driving tips” available on the Web. They’re all pretty much the same—leave extra room between yourself and the vehicle in front of you, don’t jam on your brakes, if you do start to slide, turn your wheels into the skid. But, there are also a lot of common sense things that people just seem to forget about.

  • If at all possible, stick to main/major roads that are/will be more consistently traveled. The friendly face of a state trooper can be quite a relief when you are in need of help.
  • Stop often. Keep your gas tank on the topside of the half-full line and keep your windshield wiper fluid full. (If you reside in the south and are traveling north, make sure 100% wiper fluid is added, versus a water/wiper fluid mixture.)
  • Remember businesses and service areas that are normally open may be closed and/or short-staffed due to weather conditions.
  • Stay rested and alert. If you start to get tired, switch drivers (if possible) or stop and get some rest. When you’re tired, you pose a threat not only to yourself, but also other drivers on the road. And it’s better to arrive late than not at all.

Making the decision to go or stay is not always an easy one. In any case, the best part of the trip is always the warm lights of your destination, welcoming as you arrive safely, turn off the car and breathe a sigh of relief.