Extension provides winter driving tips


By Roberta Tolan

SUN Columnist

This is the second in a series of articles on keeping ourselves, family, animals and homes safe during the cold winter months.

Only the worst forecasts seem to keep many people at home during the winter time. Fortunately, most of the people who venture out make it to their destination safe and sound. But traveling during the winter months without planning and being prepared for bad weather can be dangerous and risky. If car trouble develops or an emergency is encountered, travelers may not be able to survive an extended period of time without the basics of shelter, food and clothing.

Plan your trip

• Obtain weather and road reports from your local law enforcement office, or a radio or TV station which receives hourly weather and road reports.

• Tell someone of your plans, route, alternate route, destination and estimated time of arrival. When you arrive at your destination, tell those who need to know.

• Dress according to the weather conditions and be prepared for worse conditions.

• Do not leave without a full tank of fuel and check the engine’s oil and liquid levels.

• Check the vehicle for survival equipment and don’t leave without it.

Preparing your car 

In the event of an emergency, the well-equipped car can provide you with lifesaving shelter and provisions. The following tips may help you get your car in shape for winter driving.

• Check the headlights, tail lights, car defroster and heater.

• Use the recommended weight and grade of oil for winter conditions.

• Check the battery. The power of a battery declines as the temperature drops. Most new batteries are considered maintenance free and fluid levels cannot be checked. However, if the battery is nearing the end of its warranty life, it should be replaced. Be sure the terminals are clean and tight.

• Are the windshield wiper blades in good shape? Clear vision is essential in winter driving conditions.

• Keep the gas tank as full as possible and fuel filters should be clean and free flowing.

• Snow tires provide 51 percent more pull in snow and 28 percent more pull on ice than regular tires.

• Front-wheel drive cars do not need added weight for improved traction. Extra weight can be added to the trunk of a rear-wheel drive car for winter traveling, but too much weight can adversely affect handling. Add 75 pounds for subcompact cars, 100 pounds for compacts and intermediates and up to 150 pounds for full-size cars. Sand can be useful with front-wheel drive cars to improve traction on slippery surfaces for short distances. Tests have shown that decreasing the tire pressure in the drive wheels will not improve traction but will only cause tires to wear faster.

What to bring along

• Winter coats or parkas, balaclava, insulated gloves, stocking cap, insulated footwear, heavy socks, sleeping bag or blankets.

• High energy breads or pastry, drinking or distilled water, breakfast bars, nuts, fruit, high energy candy bars. Keep these items warm, not frozen.

• Carry a gallon of clean water, as a lack of water can cause dehydration. You will need to drink one to two quarts of water per day. This can include other liquids such as soft drinks, fruit juice, liquids from canned goods, coffee, tea cocoa or soup, but not alcoholic beverages. Melted snow should be used only if necessary and then it must be warm as cold drinks will use up precious body heat. One gallon of fresh water should be available for each person.

• Toilet paper and large can, facial tissues, first aid kit, prescription medical supplies, tooth brush and tooth paste and keep warm, not frozen.

• Cell phone, a variety of magazines, paperback book, personal tape/CD player, small radio, fresh spare batteries, stationery, pen or pencil.

If you are stranded

The first rule of survival when you become stuck and stranded in your car is to stay with the car! Your sense of direction is almost immediately lost when you attempt to walk in a blowing snow. It also requires much less energy consumption to stay with the car and minimize activity. Many more storm survivors are found alive and well in their car than are found walking around in the snow, wind and cold.

• You don’t know how long you will be stranded, so plan your resources carefully and be organized with what you do.

• Call an emergency number on your cell phone if you have reception. Keep trying as the storms can cause bad reception.

• If possible, position the car so it faces into the wind to maximize warmth from the car.

• Be sure the exhaust is free of snow and check it periodically if you use the engine for heat.

• Tie a cord or rope to the car and yourself if you must leave the vehicle for any distance to ensure that you can find your way back to the car.

• Move all of your emergency supplies from the trunk to the interior as soon as you realize you will be staying for a while. Put on the warm clothing NOW before you get cold, as it is easier to stay warm than it is to regain lost warmth. Loosen tight clothing so body heat can circulate and remove metal jewelry that might chill you.

• Manage your heating systems carefully.

• Listen to weather reports on the radio and be prepared to send signals for help including flashing lights and horns.

• Eat a snack of high calorie food just before sleeping to stimulate your metabolism. If you awaken due to the cold, eat more high energy food and add another layer of insulation.

This information was taken from a series of articles written by Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, North Dakota State University Extension Service and can be found in its entirety at www.ag.ndsu.edu/winterstorm/winter-storm-information-family-1/prairie-fare-the.


Nov. 28-29 — CSU Extension Office closed.

Dec. 3 — Colorado Kids 4-H Club meeting, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 5 — Western Heritage Committee meeting, 6 p.m.

Dec. 5 — Shady Pines 4-H Club meeting, 6:30 p.m.

Colorado State University Extension is your local university community connection for research-based information about natural resource management; living well through raising kids, eating right and spending smart; gardening and commercial horticulture; the latest agricultural production technologies and community development. Extension 4-H and youth development programs reach more than 100,000 young people annually.

Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.