Thursday, January 13, 2011

10 Tips Winter Family Driving Safety on the Road in Snow & Blizzard Conditions


Girl Boy Sledding on Vintage Snow Sled

Top Ten Tips for Safe Winter Road Travel

That's me above, enjoying an East Coast snow day as a kid with my brother in the 1960s. If you've read some of my most recent posts, you may know that I'm a big fan of family fun in the snow.  In fact, though it's in the 60s here in California today, I can't help but be enchanted by the beautiful snow covered mountains off to the east of downtown, jutting out of the Southern California horizon.

50 years later, me sledding with my own kids in this picture taken by my eldest son...

Woman Snow Sledding

Don't worry, though, if you happen to live where it's really cold right now, this post is not intended to flaunt our temperate weather.  I'm an Eastern girl at heart -- having been raised less than an hour from New York City -- and am very aware of all the snow and blizzards that have blanketed many more northernly parts of the country the past week and am particularly concerned about the associated dangers of driving with kids in such treacherous weather.

So, I'm glad to be able to bring you this post about roadway safety, thanks to the editorial staff of Rand McNally -- the map people -- who have pulled together some great advice for safe winter road travel whether you are alone or traveling with your family.

10 Ways to Safer Winter Road Travel

1. Know the differences among various winter weather advisories

The National Weather Service issues several cautions; understand what they mean before you hit the road:
a. Winter weather advisories are for conditions that may be hazardous, but should not become life threatening when using caution.
b. Winter storm watches mean that severe winter conditions may affect your area and
are issued 12-36 hours in advance of major storms.
c. 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.
d. Blizzard warnings mean snow and strong winds will produce blinding snow, deep
drifts, and a life-threatening wind chill.

2. Let someone who is not traveling with you know your timetable and travel route

This is especially important if you'll be driving in areas with little traffic, rural locations, or large park or other unpopulated areas.

3. Prevention is the best medicine

Driving slowly and maintaining plenty of room between you and the next car is the easiest way to avoid accidents. We all want to our destination faster but that extra 30 minutes could save your family's life. In bad weather, allow for 3 to 12 times more stopping distance depending on the size of your vehicle and the way your car or truck handles.

4. Stock your with all the essentials

Be sure you pack your car with a shovel, broom, ice scraper, jumper cables, blankets, flashlights, warning devices (flares), sand or kitty litter, and high-calorie non-perishable food as well as plenty of bottled water. Also, if you have young kids, be certain to bring way more formula, food, and/or diapers and wipes than you will need for the journey so you'll have enough if you have to stop along the way.

5. Keep spare, charged batteries for cell phones in your car

Duracell and others make instant chargers for popular phones such as the iPhone; there are also some hand crank generators on the market that can be purchased at outdoor and camping stores.  If your car battery dies, you will be glad you spent the extra $15 to reach help.  If you regularly travel to very remote areas where cell towers are few and far between, consider investing in a satellite telephone or an in-car service like On-Star.

6. Keep your gas tank full to prevent the fuel line from freezing

Also, make sure the windshield wiper fluid reservoir is full. In addition, be sure your car is properly maintained (check the oil) and winterized with anti-freeze fluid and snow tires or carry snow chains.

7. Check to make sure your head and tail lights and windshield wipers are functioning properly

Also that your center and side rear view mirrors are working properly before traveling. In most states it is illegal to drive if either is malfunctioning; and in certain weather situations it is also extremely unsafe.

8. Know your health insurance plan's emergency care policies

What kind of doctors can you visit? If you have in-network benefits what happens if you need medical care beyond your home city or state? Are you charged differently for treatment at a hospital emergency room (without being admitted) or an emergency walk-in clinic? It goes without saying that you should carry a copy of your health care policy and/or membership cards if you belong to an HMO, for example.

9. If you get stuck in the snow, stay in your car – it’s your best shelter

Don’t leave unless help is within 100 yards and, ideally, is visible.

10. Nearly 60% of accidents are the result of improper driving

Whether you've had a bit too much to eat or a bit too much alcohol, don't drive until you are fully awake and not impaired by anything. Most adults know well enough not to drink and drive, but few realize accidents are just as easily caused by being drowsy or impaired by legal drugs like cold medicines. When in doubt, pull to the side of the road being sure that you are completely off the highway and out of harm's way, stop at a designated rest stop to wait the storm out or check into a motel for a quick nap.

And a bonus point:

Always carry a first aid kit in the car with you. This is especially important if you have children or the elderly riding with you. Don't forget to bring all prescription medications you'll need with you and have extra with you, just in case your travel is delayed by bad weather.

My youngest son building a whole army of mini snowmen...

Boy Building Snowmen

For even more travel suggestions and ideas on driving distances with kids during winter weather or for maps and directions, visit the Rand McNally website

What other ideas do you have about driving in winter weather with your kids? Definitely post a comment and share your advice with other families.

FTC Disclosure:  Rand McNally provided the original content for this blogpost which was then edited by MommyBlogExpert.  I did not receive any payment or other compensation.   See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's main page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.

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