Life-saving items to keep in your car in case a winter emergency happens
By Ashley Williams, AccuWeather staff writer
While weather-related vehicle emergencies aren't always life-threatening, freezing conditions can quickly transform mechanical troubles or getting stuck in the snow into a deadly situation.
More than 70 percent of roads in the United States are located in snowy regions which receive an average of over 5 inches of snowfall each year, and nearly 70 percent of the population lives in those regions, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
“People don't often envision themselves getting stuck,” said law enforcement writer and blogger Paul Grattan Jr.
“Many of today's cars and trucks are very capable in winter weather; however, each year, many motorists become stranded due to circumstances beyond their control and outside of their vehicle's reliability,” Grattan said.
If an unthinkable scenario occurs, including a multiple-car pileup on a slushy highway miles from the nearest exit, preparing in advance with a vehicle winter emergency kit can help save lives.
It doesn’t require much time or money to take precautions that could keep you and your family safe in a winter emergency on the road.
“A car emergency kit should contain items to support three things: car maintenance, driver comfort and safety as well as nutrition and sustenance,” said Emily Long, safety and security expert for security resource company, A Secure Life.
In case the vehicle’s trunk is jammed or frozen shut, Wisconsin Emergency Management advised drivers to store the kit in the passenger area.
Winter driving and car maintenance
Experts advise storing these items in your vehicle, as they can help you out of a tough situation and protect your vehicle and its passengers until help arrives.
“It's incredibly important to keep up with regular vehicle maintenance,” Long said.
If you decide not to put snow tires on your car, check the tread of your all-weather tires to ensure they’re still in good condition, she added.
Long also recommended checking your fluids, lights and tire pressure and addressing potential repairs sooner rather than later.
Checking your spare tire, jack and lug wrench before cold weather arrives is also advised.
A winter emergency kit might also contain the following items to ensure the safety of passengers while waiting for help to arrive.
It’s also advised to include water jugs, nonperishable snacks that can be consumed hot or cold as well as extra medications in your kit.
“If you are planning to be in remote areas in winter weather where the chance of another car passing by is low, tell someone about your plans and check in with them at pre-scheduled times,” Long recommended.
Other emergency kit items
Experts suggested that these items might also come in handy during a roadside winter emergency.
A full tank of gas can be a lifesaver in a winter emergency, Grattan said.
“Low fuel can leave you without heat if you become stuck, and being low on gas also increases your risk of a frozen fuel line in your car, leaving you stranded,” he said.
Grattan recommended keeping no less than half a tank of gas in your car throughout the winter.
He also advised keeping your exhaust pipe clear if the vehicle ever becomes stuck in a snow embankment, or if the vehicle is unable to move during continuous snowfall.
This minimizes the deadly threat of carbon monoxide, which can occur if the vehicle’s exhaust is blocked, he said.
For more safety and preparedness tips, visit AccuWeather.com/Ready.
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