Getting stranded in your car during the winter can be a terrifying situation. If you’re not prepared, it can even turn into a life-threatening scenario. Don’t let that happen to you or your family. Learn how to stay warm and survive when you’re stranded in your car on the road.
Winter Driving Survival Tips
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 extremely cold temperatures. At the same time, I still 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 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 is not quite so lucky. As winter goes on, the weather and driving conditions only get worse. I wanted to share a few definitions, tips and car safety kit ideas to help you survive, should you be left stranded in your car at some point in the cold.
Review this list of winter weather terms to know and remember to avoid being stranded:
- Freezing Rain: creates a fine coat of ice on highways or walkways
- Sleet: rain that has turned to ice pellets prior to reaching the ground, causes roads to freeze and become slippery
- Weather Advisory: ice and snow are soon expected
- Storm Watch: severe weather is expected in the next couple of days
- Storm Warning: severe winter conditions are starting
7 Tips For Survival If You’re Stranded In Your Car
1. Don’t panic! If you find yourself stranded in your car, it’s crucial that you stay calm.
2. 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.
3. While you should not leave your vehicle, you will need something to keep warm. A car blocks you from the wind, but the high glass and metal content also wick away any heat that your body produces. Make sure you have another way to preserve heat.
4. Run the car periodically. 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 causes exhaust fumes, like carbon monoxide, to build up very quickly. This happens especially if the tailpipe is buried in the snow.
5. 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.
6. Keep your morale high. While potentially dangerous situations are nothing to celebrate, allowing your morale to dip and your body to become stressed makes for a much more dangerous situation than if you keep calm.
7. 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 your engine freezes.
Recommendations For Your Car Safety Kit
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 know how to use them! When you’re freezing cold and possibly wet, you will NOT have the time to waste reading the directions.
What to include in your kit:
- Blankets or sleeping bags.
- Flashlight with extra batteries. LED flashlights work best as they require very little battery power. (The Hybeam Microlight is the perfect addition to your car kit, check it out.)
- An auto first-aid kit.
- A knife and some high-calorie, non-perishable food like ration bars or protein bars (be sure to 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’a a good idea to bring a few games and something like a teddy bear or blanket as this helps comfort them.
This keychain-sized evacuation tool is the key to escaping your car in an emergency situation. In the event of an accident that would otherwise leave you trapped in your vehicle, this tool could save your life.
Can you think of anything that I missed or that you would add?