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Prepare for Winter Driving Conditions

Preparing Your Car and Yourself for Winter Driving

We have had an amazing fall this year. Above average temperatures, balmy evenings, and an abundance of sunshine has been enjoyed by all. Let’s face it, this is Maine, and now we are dealing with the first winter storm of the year.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to prepare your car or truck for the winter months. Good snow tires, new windshield wipers, and a properly operating battery are all essentials for dealing with Maine winters. A few other items could come in handy should you have an unfortunate skid into a snowbank or get stuck. Remember, many others in town may be having the same misfortune, stretching emergency services and available tow trucks. A small emergency shovel and container of sand (kitty litter) may be just enough for you to get out on your own. If not, an emergency flag (several styles are available at auto parts stores) should be placed on the top of your car as soon as possible. Turn on your 4 way flashers. If available, use your cell phone to call for help and remain in your car until it arrives. A blanket, bottle of water and snack food would also be useful in the unlikely event of an extended stay. Above all else, NEVER let your gas gauge get below half in the winter months.

Here are some additional tips for you to think about before you head out on the roads this winter:

Stock up with survival gear

If you have to drive and there’s a winter weather advisory in your area, do a little research via the internet, television, or radio to identify conditions and forecasts for you entire route.  If there’s a storm brewing, think twice before you venture out.  And if it’s already snowing, better to postpone your trip until the roads are clear.

But sometimes you’re already on the road when conditions become menacing.  In that case, be sure to have the right equipment and supplies in your vehicle. These include:

  • Fully charged cell phone and car charger or extra batteries
  • Shovel
  • Windshield scraper
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Bottled water
  • Snack food (nuts and fruit)
  • Extra hats, coats and gloves
  • Blankets and newspaper for insulation
  • Road salt and sand
  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Bright-colored cloth or flag
  • First aid kit

If you’re stranded

If, after taking every precaution, you find yourself trapped in a winter storm, these safety steps will help keep you safe until help arrives:

  • Stay in your vehicle; don’t leave it to look for help unless help is visible within 100 yards.
  • Hang a brightly colored cloth on the antenna to signal for help; or, after the snow stops falling, open your hood.
  • To keep warm, turn on the car’s engine for about 10 minutes each hour.
  • Keep your lights on and run the heater only while the car is running, to avoid running the battery down.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Open a down-wind window slightly for fresh air.
  • Do light exercises to stay warm: clap your hands, wave your arms, flex your legs.
  • If you’re alone, stay awake as much as possible.
  • If more than one person is in the car, take turns sleeping and huddle close together for warmth.
  • Wrap your body and head with extra clothes, blankets, newspapers, maps, or removable car mats.

Keeping yourself well-hydrated and fed is key to defending against frostbite and strain on your heart.  Eat high-energy snacks, and drink water – and don’t eat snow (it will lower your body temperature).   If you don’t have water, melt snow using a can and a candle (add them to your list of things to keep in your car).  Remember:  water has to reach a full   boil for a full minute to kill most germs, but boiling water won’t get rid of chemicals sometimes found in snow.

Safe Travels!

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