By Larry Nicholson, State Farm Agent
Every winter in Southern Oregon, we read or hear about an auto accident or driving situation that might have been preventable had folks been better prepared. Winter driving conditions can turn treacherous in an instant. Snow, ice, poor visibility, and extreme cold can disable your vehicle or make roads impassable. Even on a relatively short trip, you can find yourself stranded for several hours. It’s important to plan ahead for such a situation. Here are five things I wish every driver would do to be better prepared:
1. Prepare Your Vehicle
The best time to get ready is before the first storm of the season, so be sure to check:
• Hoses and fan belts
• Spark plugs
• Fluid levels
• Battery strength
• Tire pressure and tread life
• Air, fuel, and emission filters
• Spare tire and jack
2. Follow Winter Driving Recommendations
From the moment you start your vehicle, winter driving has its own set of challenges.
• Never warm up your vehicle in a closed garage.
• Keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent gas line freeze-up.
• Make sure your exhaust pipe is not clogged with mud or snow.
• Don’t use cruise control on icy roads.
• Allow more time for braking when visibility is poor.
• Stay calm if you start to skid.
3. Carry Emergency Supplies
In addition to the just-in-case items you should always have in your vehicle — jumper cables, tire-changing tools, a flashlight, and a first aid kit — be sure to carry these winter essentials:
• A small, folding shovel
• Tow and tire chains
• Basic tool kit
• Bag of road salt or cat litter
• Windshield wiper fluid
• Warning flares
• Tire chains (know how to install!)
4. Pack a Survival Kit
You might want to keep a small survival kit on hand in case you are ever stranded in your vehicle. Some useful items include:
• Ice scraper and brush
• Wooden matches
• High-energy, non-perishable food
• Prescription medicine
• Cell phone charger
• Blankets and warm clothing
5. Stay Calm if Stranded
If a winter storm strands you with your vehicle, follow these tips:
• Pull off the highway, if possible, turn on your hazard lights or light flares, and hang a distress flag from an antenna or window.
• If you have a phone, call 911 and describe your location as precisely as possible.
• Remain in your vehicle so help can find you.
• Run your vehicle’s engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. Crack open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
• Exercise a little to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion and sweating.
• Drink fluids to avoid dehydration.
• Conserve your vehicle’s battery. Use lights, heat, and radio sparingly.
• At night, turn on an light when you run the engine so help can see you.
Let’s all be safe this year! Plan ahead and be prepared!