When the high temperature in Charlotte reached 33 degrees Sunday, and de-icing trucks were hitting the roads at 3:00 AM on Monday morning, I decided this is a good time to address an issue that's often overlooked when we talk about personal safety: how we protect ourselves in harsh winter weather.
Protection on the road
We all like to have the utmost in confidence in the performance of our vehicles, but unplanned things do happen. And as I'm always saying in this blog, preparedness is the key.
This reminds me of an incident that occurred in January of 2015 in Michigan, when a reported 76 semi trucks and 117 passenger vehicles collided in a chain reaction disaster attributed to ice and speed. Clearly no one involved that day anticipated this when waking up that morning, but they nonetheless found themselves having to immediately deal with that situation.
Imagine being in the middle of that mess, not injured, just suffering from a banged up vehicle knowing that you were going to be stuck there for several hours. What will you have inside your vehicle? According to the National Safety Council, these are the items they recommend you keep in your vehicle during cold weather:
- Properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod jack
- Jumper cables
- Tow and tire chains
- Bag of salt or cat litter for better tire traction or to melt snow
- Tool kit
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Reflective triangles or flares
- First aid kit
- Windshield cleaner
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Matches in a waterproof container
- Scissors and string or cord
- Nonperishable, high-energy foods like unsalted, canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy
- Blankets, mittens, socks and hats
Condition of your vehicle
In addition, the National Safety Council also recommends that the condition of your vehicle should be a priority during colder weather, ensuring that you or a mechanic check the following:
- Hoses and fan belts
- Spark plugs
- Air, fuel and emissions filters, and PCV valve
- Tire wear and air pressure
- Antifreeze level and freeze line
Watching those weather conditions is another thing we can do to prevent a potential incident. Several public news sources are available to include TV, radio and online. I've made it a point to install the free WBTV Weather App on my phone which keeps me informed of all the latest weather concerns year round. Also, the North Carolina Department of Transportation has a toll-free travel information line, 511, that according to their website, gives you the latest on current travel conditions, including major closures and wrecks, on interstate, state and U.S. routes. You can also dial *HP from your mobile phone anywhere in North Carolina to be immediately connected to the State Highway Patrol.
Winter weather driving tips
I'd also like to share with you these great driving tips from the American Automobile Association (AAA):
- Never mix radial tires with other types of tires
- Avoid using your parking brake to slow or stop
- Do not use cruise control in wintery conditions
- Look and steer in the direction you want to go
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly
- Increase following distance to 8 to 10 seconds
- Know whether you have antilock brakes, which will "pump" the brakes for you in a skid
- If possible, don't stop when going uphill
- Keep your gas tank at least half-full
- If you do get stranded, don't try to push your vehicle out of snow
- Signal distress with a brightly colored cloth tied to the antenna or in a rolled up window
No matter where you are, or what the weather conditions, following a few simple guidelines can improve things For Your Safety and those riding with you.
Stay warm and stay safe.