Jaime Stone, contributing writer
Over the river and through the woods … many families include road trips in their holiday festivities, but snow and ice can make driving conditions treacherous.
Driving carefully is a must, but there are also some specific safety tips that are worth considering over and over again to ensure you and your family will make it to their holiday destination safely this season.
UNDERSTAND WEATHER ADVISORIES
The National Weather Service issues advisories based on conditions. Understand what they mean before you hit the road:
• Winter weather advisories are for conditions that may be hazardous but should not become life threatening when using caution.
• Winter storm watches mean that severe winter conditions may affect your area and are issued 12-36 hours in advance of major storms.
• Winter storm warnings mean a storm bringing four or more inches of snow/sleet is expected in the next 12 hours, or six or more inches in 24 hours.
• Blizzard warnings mean snow and strong winds will produce blinding snow, deep drifts, and a life threatening wind chill.
OTHER HELPFUL TIPS:
1. Check your vehicle. Get a maintenance check to make sure that your windshield wipers and all lights and blinkers are working. Drive on a full tank of gas to avoid the fuel line freezing and check the traction on your tires.
2. Share your schedule. Give a trusted family member or friend your schedule and travel route. This is especially important if you’ll be driving in areas with spotty cell phone reception.
3. Drive smart. Give yourself plenty of time. Driving slowly and maintaining plenty of room between you and the next car is the easiest way to avoid accidents.
4. Stock your car. Keep winter and safety essentials like a shovel, ice scraper, jumper cables, blankets, flashlight, flares, sand, and nonperishable food, water, and other emergency supplies like a first-aid kit, jumper cables, and spare batteries/portable cell phone chargers. Ensure you have extra diapers and baby formula/food if you are traveling with babies.
5. Stay in your car. If you get stuck in the snow, stay put — it’s your best shelter. The Red Cross advises drivers to tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see. You should run the engine 10 minutes every hour to power the heat and the overhead lights, and keep a window away from the blowing wind slightly open.
6. Remove bulky clothing. Before strapping babies and children into their car seats, remove their coats. It seems logical to bundle your baby up, but leaving bulky coats on when harnessing your child reduces the effectiveness of their car seats. In the event of a crash, a coat can compress, leaving the harness loose and your child vulnerable to injury. Secure straps so that they are snug and close to the body. If you’re worried about your child getting cold, tuck a blanket or their jacket around them after buckling them in their car seat.