Winter weather is finally here, and with the chance for parts of the state to see at least flurries this weekend, it is time for Hoosiers to consider preparing vehicles for travel during winter storms.
“Hoosiers experience winter storms that produce snow, ice and cold that create dangerous travel hazards each year,” said John Erickson, director of public affairs for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. “Preparing vehicles ahead of these storms to ensure they are ready for any type of emergency can lessen and even prevent the risk of injury.”
Being prepared to handle potential slide-offs, accidents or other car trouble in winter is a simple but crucial step to take while preparing for winter weather.
Erickson recommends that a readiness kit be kept in the car in case motorists are stranded during a winter storm. These kits should include:
- Cell phone and charger for vehicle use
- At least two blankets or a sleeping bag
- Bottled water and non-perishable food
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- First aid kit and necessary medication
- Jumper cables
- Emergency flares
- Extra clothing, including boots, hats and gloves
- Sand or non-clumping cat litter for tire traction
- Ice scraper and snow brush
Hoosiers are also encouraged to take the following measures to help ensure safety on the road:
- Check tire pressure and tread depth. Use a pressure gauge to determine if tire tread is deep enough to ensure good traction. Consult the owner’s manual for advice.
- Look for uneven wearing on tires, which can also be dangerous.
- Check battery, exhaust system, heater and defroster. Make sure the battery is not past its lifespan, and that the terminals are tight and free of corrosion. Hoses and belts should be inspected for cracks. Now is the time to discover if the heater is broken, not when on the road.
- Check antifreeze. Make sure that a 50 percent antifreeze, 50 percent water mixture is at the proper radiator level. If the coolant is two years old, get it flushed and refilled.
- It is a good idea to keep at least a half tank of gas in the car at all times during the winter months, to keep the fuel lines from freezing.
Before leaving home during a winter storm, find out about the driving conditions and pay attention to weather reports on the TV, radio and online. Make sure to clear off any snow or ice that may be on windows, lights and signals to ensure clear visibility around the car.
It is also important to become familiar with the vehicle’s winter weather operating characteristics. Front-wheel-drive vehicles generally handle better than rear-wheel-drive vehicles on slippery roads because of the weight of the engine is on the drive wheels, improving traction.
Anyone who is in an accident or slide-off, encounters vehicle trouble or becomes stuck in the snow, it is important to stay calm and take action to stay safe.
- Do not leave the car. It is likely the best protection against the cold and storms.
- Run the engine for 10 minutes every hour to stay warm. An idling car only uses about one gallon of gas per hour.
- If a cell phone is not readily available to call for help, tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see.
- Keep the overhead light on when the engine is running so other motorists can see the car (remember to keep the windows cracked).
- Keep the exhaust pipe free of blockage to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- If it is necessary to leave the vehicle during a severe snow storm or blizzard, secure a line of rope to the vehicle to avoid becoming lost or disoriented.
- Never eat snow, it will lower body temperatures.
To view current travel advisories by county in Indiana, visit the IDHS travel advisory map at http://www.in.gov/dhs/traveladvisory/. Free mobile apps are also available from the Apple Store, http://apple.co/1Gw2cU4, or the Google Play store, http://bit.ly/1Lv69fl.
Hoosiers can also visit the Indiana Department of Transportation TrafficWise site at http://www.in.gov/indot/2420.htm to view traffic congestion, safety maps and updated reports for all state roads, U.S. highways and interstates across Indiana.
For more information on winter weather preparedness, visit GetPrepared.IN.gov.