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The Road Less Traveled
43.6 million Americans are expected to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, averaging a distance of 588 miles. Of these travelers 87% (37.9 million) will be travelling by car. I personally drove 600+ miles over the weekend, much of it through relatively remote stretches of highway. As we passed over 80 miles without seeing another car on the road I began to wonder just how my wife and I would fair if we were to become stranded in our car.
In our neck of the woods we have pretty warm winters. In fact, snow is a rarity so in most cases I wouldn’t need to worry about extreme cold temperatures. At the same point, I always carry a lightweight hooded jacked for myself and my wife in my tool bag. I also have all of the standard tools that I would need to work on my car, a couple of ration bars and several Mylar water bags. In my area I have more to worry about with heat than blistering cold.
Unfortunately the majority of the country will not be quite so lucky. As the winter goes on the weather and driving conditions will only get worse. I wanted to leave you today with a few tips that could help you survive, should you be left stranded in your car at some point in the cold.
- Never leave the vehicle. If you are stranded, the vehicle offers a form of protection from overexposure to the cold. A single person walking through the snow is also harder to find than a stranded car or truck.
- While you should not leave your vehicle, you will need something to keep warm. A car will block you from the wind but the high glass and metal content will also wick away any heat that your body will produce. Make sure you have another way to preserve heat.
- It is okay to run the car for short periods to provide some heat. Remember to crack the windows a small amount to allow for the circulation of fresh air. Failure to do so will cause exhaust fumes, like carbon monoxide, to build up very quickly. Especially if the tailpipe is buried in the snow.
- Keep yourself moving. Most cars offer very little extra room to stretch out and move around, but exercise is a must. Do whatever you can to keep your body in motion. Clap your hands, stomp your feet, and move around as much as possible at least once an hour.
- Another very important step that is often overlooked is to keep your morale high. While potentially dangerous situations are nothing to celebrate, allowing your morale to dip and your body to become stressed will make for a much more dangerous situation that if you were to keep calm.
- Make sure that your car is as visible as possible. Hang bits of bright colored cloth or plastic from the windows. An open hood on your car is a universal distress signal and helps make you much more visible. Only do this if there is no snow falling otherwise this could cause your engine to freeze up.
You also need to make sure that you have some kind of emergency kit in your car at all times.
You can purchase a pre-made car safety kit or build your own. If you decide to purchase a kit don’t just store it in your trunk, make sure you are intimately familiar with the contents and how know how to use them!
Learn to use all of the supplies in the kit! When you are freezing cold, and possibly wet, you will NOT have the time to waste reading the directions.
- Get blankets or sleeping bags such as a space blanket.
- Flashlight with extra batteries. LED flashlights work best as they require very little battery power
- You absolutely need an auto first-aid kit.
- A knife and some high-calorie, non-perishable food like ration bars or protein bars (make sure that you switch them out regularly to avoid spoilage)
- A large empty can and plastic cover with tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes plus a smaller can and water-proof matches to melt snow for drinking water.
- Sack of sand (or cat litter) for tire traction and a shovel.
- An auto emergency tool kit Kits should include tow ropes, windshield scrapers, jumper) cables, and a few emergency tools like a small ratchet or wrench set.
- A compass and road maps.
- I always keep a small bag with some extra “just in case” clothing that can be worn to replace soiled or wet clothing or as an extra layer for warmth.
Be sure to keep any other items that suit your specific needs, keep an extra set of glasses if you wear them. Bring diapers and formula if you have children. Also if you have children, it would be a good idea to bring a few games and something like a teddy bear or blanket that will help comfort them.
Can you think of anything that I missed or that you would add?