In Part 2 of our series on winter weather safety, we’re going to take a look at winter road and driving safety. Staying safe on the road during winter weather is one of the most important aspects of winter weather safety since it can easily be the one of the most deadly or cause the most damage to vehicles when winter weather vehicle accidents occur.
The first thing I recommend for our readers is to always check for road conditions during a winter weather event before venturing out on the road. For those in Arkansas, the official road conditions map released by the Arkansas Department of Transportation is iDrive Arkansas, which is available online on their website or available as a mobile app. Here is a sample image from the iDrive Arkansas website (we don’t watermark our WeatherTogether logo on images shared from iDrive Arkansas to remain in compliance with AR DOT’s guidelines):
Another road conditions map I have access to that I’ll be using in my blog posts and on social media is the exclusive ThreatMatrix road conditions map by Baron Weather available in Baron Threat Net. With ThreatMatrix by Baron, I can zoom into any area across the state or nation even down to street level and get a look at the latest road conditions, as well as easily query the data on the map so readers can more easily see which road conditions are occurring in a given area. The other benefit is Baron now offers a road conditions forecast model map, allowing me to project into the future what the potential road conditions are going to be for a given area before the road conditions actually arrive. It is a super beneficial tool that is a part of my winter weather toolbox. These road conditions maps are also beneficial during severe weather when tracking flooded roads, so they have a benefit beyond winter weather as well. I wish I had this tool when I lived a few years in Georgia, as while Arkansas DOT makes it super simple to find road conditions across the state, I had a difficult time finding Georgia DOT’s official road conditions map when living there. Here is a sample of road conditions maps and road conditions forecast maps in Baron Threat Net:
If either road conditions map show winter precipitation covering the roads you need to travel, we recommend staying off the road until the roads have cleared (and generally we recommend checking the official road conditions map from your state’s DOT to ensure it shows all clear before traveling out; for those in Arkansas, it is iDrive Arkansas) unless it is critical that you travel on the roads. Traveling on the roads during winter weather events increases your chance of vehicle accidents, so planning your trips around winter weather events is the best move you can make when possible. Your vehicle insurance company (in my case, I use State Farm from Clay Combs agency in Hot Springs, Arkansas) likely offers discounts on your vehicle insurance policy when you drive safe and aren’t involved in any vehicle accidents, and the quickest way to avoid a vehicle accident on the road is to limit or elimiate your driving during major winter weather events. Installing your vehicle insurance provider’s mobile application onto your smartphone is also a smart move to make prior to a major winter weather event just in case you need access to your vehicle insurance’s information during a winter weather event such as in the unfortunate case of an accident.
I also recommend that you enroll in some from of 24/7 Roadside Assistance program before a major winter weather event in case your vehicle has an issue while on the road. Your vehicle insurance provider is likely the ideal place to enroll in 24/7 Roadside Assistance (State Farm offers it, and the phone number for State Farm’s 24/7 Roadside Assistance is 877-627-5757). T-Mobile customers can also look into the SyncUP Drive, which not only offers Roadside Assistance (from Allstate Motor Club), as well as other handy features such as: in-car Wi-Fi hotspot, real-time car diagnostics (using your car’s OBDII connector), and vehicle safety (so you’ll know if someone attempts to break into or hit your car). I own a SyncUP Drive myself, and it has been a super-handy way to better understand my car’s metrics and offer an additional level of protection for it.
Before the Storm
Each year, on average, more than 6,000 people are killed and more than 480,000 are injured due to weather-related vehicle crashes. If you need to drive in snow or cold conditions, TAKE IT SLOW IN THE SNOW. Black ice can be difficult to see. If the temperature is near freezing, drive like youâ€™re on ice–you may be!
Before you leave the house, especially before a longer trip in winter, make sure all fluid levels are full and ensure that the lights, heater, and windshield wipers in proper condition. Keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines. Avoid traveling alone. Let someone know your timetable and primary and alternate routes. Then call 511 for the latest traffic and road incidents, including construction and weather conditions and restrictions. Every state offers this Department of Transportation service. Call before you leave, it might change your plans!
Fully check and winterize your vehicle before the winter season begins. Carry a Winter Storm Survival Kit that includes the following:
- Mobile phone, charger, batteries
- Blankets/sleeping bags
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Firstaid kit
- High-calorie, non-perishable food
- Extra clothing to keep dry
- Large empty can to use as emergency toilet, tissues and paper towels for sanitary purposes
- Small can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water
- Sack of sand or cat litter for traction
- Windshield scraper and brush
- Tool kit
- Tow rope
- Battery booster cables
- Water container
- Candle and matches to provide light and in an emergency, lifesaving heat.
- Compass and road maps, don’t depend on moble devices with limited battery life
During the Storm
If you must drive during a storm, take the following precautions:
- Slow down! Even if the roads just look wet they could still be slick. More than 6,000 fatalities occur on the roadways each year due to weather conditions.
- Make sure your vehicle is completely clear of ice or snow before starting the trip. Flying snow from cars causes accidents.
- Let someone know where you are going and what route you will take. If something happens, this person will know where to start a search.
- Don’t leave the house without the following a fully charged mobile phone and car charger and a emergency supplies kit in your car.
- If you are driving and begin to skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas and turn your wheels in the direction you want the front of the car to go. If you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply steady pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump the brakes on an ABS equipped vehicle.
- If you are having trouble seeing due to weather conditions, pull over to the side of the road and stop your car until visibility improves. Turn off your lights and use your parking break when stopped so that another car won’t mistakenly follow your tail/brake lights and end up hitting you.
If your car gets stuck during a storm:
- Stay in the vehicle!
- If you leave your vehicle, you will become disoriented quickly in wind-driven snow and cold.
- Run the motor about 10 minutes each hour for heat.
- While running the motor, open the window a little for fresh air to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Clear snow from the exhaust pipe to avoid gas poisoning.
- Be visible to rescuers.
- Turn on the dome light at night when running the engine.
- Tie a bright colored cloth, preferably red, to your antenna or door.
- After snow stops falling, raise the hood to indicate you need help.
That wraps it up here! Nathan Parker signing off!