Winter is on its way! So it is time to think about how to keep you and your family safe on the roads this year. Roads get icy and slippery, visibility gets bad and other drivers seem to start driving crazy. The thought of being in accident, lost or stranded in the freezing cold can be scary, because it can be deadly. However, there are a few inexpensive things that you can do yourself, to help ensure your safety. You could break these down into a few simple categories, which can be the basis for your winter checklist.
Visibility – When it is snowing, especially at night, visibility can become very poor. It is important to both see and be seen by other drivers. Here are a few things to help. Drive with your headlights on, even in the daytime. This is the law in many parts of the world, for good reason. Make sure your headlights have clear lenses. They all tend to get foggy and yellowed over the years. New ones can cost hundreds of dollars, but there are products you can buy at auto-supply shops such as Advance Auto Parts to clear them back up. There are many brands of rub-on creams, but the many mechanics believe the best products use a buffing compound that is used with an attachment, which goes on the end of an electric drill. Clear headlight lenses can increase headlight brightness by 100 percent or more. Try the new LED headlight bulbs. They take less energy, last longer and are often brighter than traditional bulbs. If you don’t know how to put them in, ask one of the nice clerks at Advance Auto Parts or check your car’s manual. Often there is a small access cover that you will find when you lift the hood, to quickly change the bulb.
Check your windshield wiper fluid. Besides making sure you have enough, make sure it is not just a cleaning, but a de-icing fluid. Be aware that there are laws that vary from state to state about what chemicals may be in this fluid. If you bought a used car that came from a Southern State and now live in a cold Northern State, you may get a big shock when your wiper fluid instantly freezes to your windshield on a cold day. Good wiper blades. If they are making streaks in the rain, it will be worse in the snow. Buy good quality, name brand blades and they will last you for years.
Traction – Snow and ice make you slip and slide in unexpected ways. Here are ways to improve traction. Be sure that your tires have good tread depth and aren’t balding. You can get snow tires, but be sure to check your states local laws. Carry tire chains, be sure they fit, and know how to use them. Have every member of your family, who will be driving, prove that they know how to put them on the car. Otherwise, they might end up stranded or in a ditch. In some areas, they may be required during winter. Buy a bag of sand. Carry it in your trunk or back of your pickup-truck. The extra weight will give better traction, plus, it may be poured out in front of tires, in emergency situations, to gain traction. It could get you un-stuck from the snow.
Navigation – Don’t get lost on a dark snowy night. We live in a day and age, where people are often totally reliant on their cell phones for navigation. What if your battery dies or you have no signal? Have a paper map for any area you travel through, and know how to use it. Get a compass. They are cheap and may save your life one day.
An Emergency Kit – Every car should have one that contains at least the basics. You might even use it to save someone else’s life in the future. A well designed kit need not take up more than a couple square feet of your truck space. Here are some suggestion items. A blanket. It could keep you warm in an emergency or be used to protect your clothing if you need to put on tire chains or work under your car. Have at least one full sized one, but having extra space blankets is a good idea as well. They only cost about $1 online. A hatchet, large knife or machete. You might need it for many things, such as chopping fire wood, to keep warm. Food. Have calorie dense carbohydrate and protein rich food with a long shelf life. A first aid kit. Be sure to include basic bandages and material to wrap injuries. Other helpful items would be alcohol pads or wound antiseptic, Benedryl for allergic reactions and aspirin, which can save someone’s life during a heart attack.
A small shovel- The military style fold up variety take up little space. They may be used to dig for water or even help dig your car out of mud or snow. More than one way to start a fire, such as matches, flint and/or a cigarette lighter.
Water- Have at least a couple bottles and perhaps a metal hiking/biking water bottle that could be heated to purify more.
Hopefully, you will not need any of these emergency items, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. Drive safely and enjoy the winter!”