Many people enjoy the winter season; skiing, sledding, snowing, sharing in the holiday season. But before we break into carols and explore the winter wonderland, we must take the proper precautions needed to keep ourselves and our families safe and warm during these cold winter months. New fallen snow is beautiful to look at, but not so fun to drive in. Icy roads, fellow drivers unaccustomed to the conditions of season make our daily commutes and errands a bit more unpredictable. Extreme cold also poses risks to homeowners and travelers, alike. To best prepare you for these cold winter months and the hazards they bring, follow a few simple safety precautions and some key preparedness advice.
Snow and Ice
Don't underestimate the power of that pretty snowfall; even a light coating can make the roads slippery and unpredictable. When there's snow, take it slow and resist the urge to keep up with those that might pass you. Getting from point A to point B isn't a race and speeding in wintery weather can be especially dangerous.
Ice and black ice are also cause for concern. If the roads are icy, you may start to slide around a bit. When that happens our first instinct is to put our foot on the brake, but it's important to do this slowly and carefully. Slamming on your brakes can cause your vehicle to slide even more as the wheels lock up. Black ice is especially dangerous because it's much harder for drivers to detect, but equally as slippery. For this reason, it's important that you head any weather warnings regarding icy road conditions and leave yourself a little extra time when commuting. Proper winter tires with plenty of tread are also important to keeping your car out of that ditch.
Those that live in areas that experience harsh winters will have come to know the dangers of extreme cold and the damage it can do to the body. Frost bite and numbness in areas of the body left exposed to extreme cold is a real danger and can have lasting consequences. Avoid prolonged exposure to extreme cold, only going outside if absolutely necessary. If the need arises, make sure you wear proper winter gear, including warm hats, waterproof gloves and boots, waterproof winter coats and, in very severe winter weather, full face coverage. Do not allow children or pets outside during periods of extreme cold, as their bodies may not be able to regulate their temperature and they may become hypothermic. Homeowners who may be away from home for an extended period of time should also be aware of the risks that extreme cold pose to the home. Make sure your home is left above 55 degrees in order to avoid pipes freezing and/or bursting.
Ice and snow aren't the only parts of winter driving, though they certainly are important. Winter driving also includes properly maintaining your vehicle so that it continues to be dependable in the colder months. Making sure your car or truck has winter tires and has been topped off with antifreeze are two very easy precautions to help you be better prepared to travel the winter roads. Also important is to keep at least a quarter of a tank of gas in your car at all times; don't let it run down to empty. This is advisable because in extremely cold weather gasoline can freeze and this can cause issues with your vehicle beyond the immediate inability to get to where you need to be.
Winter driving also means there are going to be a few extra vehicles joining you on the roads, specifically snow plows and winter maintenance vehicles that condition the roads with rock salt and dirt to help drivers like yourself get the traction they need to drive safely. Give these vehicles the space and time they need to do their job properly; it's for your own benefit.
Watches, Warnings, and Advisories
In order of severity, winter weather watches, warnings, and advisories may be issued by your local government as a way of alerting residents of dangerous or compromised conditions. It's important that you take any of these public service announcements seriously and plan your day accordingly. Much to the delight of school children everywhere, these warnings may be linked to school closures; parents may not share in that excitement. Winter weather advisories may also be cause for your state's government to declare a state of emergency for affected areas. Advisories may restrict travel, in which case it's critical that residents do not choose to travel unless it's an emergency. In some cases, unnecessary driving in these events may be cause for fines or arrests to be issued. Take these warnings into consideration and appreciate the day safe at home if need be.
By: Steven Moore