By Legal Aid of Nebraska intern Annie Christenson:
Across the midwest, January brings some of the coldest temperatures of the year. Temperatures regularly dip well-below zero. Driving in these conditions can be dangerous, so preparing your vehicle and yourself is extremely important to ensure your safety when on the road. In a piece called Winter Weather Preparedness,* Weather Underground offers a list of tips to keep in mind when preparing your vehicle for travel during freezing temperatures.
Preparing Your Vehicle
Vehicle preparation is extremely important when driving in icy and cold conditions. Here is a list of things to double-check before venturing out on the roads:
- Check your brakes, transmission and tires
- Check that your battery and ignition system is in top condition and that battery terminals are clean
- Check radiator coolant and sturdiness of hoses and belts
- Check your antifreeze and thermostat to avoid freezing
- Check your windshield wipers and deicing washer fluid
- Check your headlights, tail and brake lights, blinkers and emergency flasher
- Check your exhaust system, heater and defroster
- Check fuel and air filters
- Check your oil and power steering fluids
- Properly lubricate door locks that may be prone to freezing
Driving in Cold Weather Conditions
Below is a list designed to help drivers keep themselves and others safe while on the roads in winter conditions:
- Before beginning your trip, check the current road conditions and weather forecast. For statewide highway information 24 hours a day, check the Nebraska Department of Transportation’s website.
- Keep your car’s windows, mirrors and lights clear of snow and ice
- Put on your seat belt
- Allow yourself plenty of time to make it to your destination
- Be aware of sleet and freezing rain
- Be aware of potentially icy areas
- Brake early and slowly and avoid slamming on the brakes
- Keep a safe distance of at least five seconds behind other vehicles and trucks that are plowing the road
- When driving on ice and snow, do notuse cruise control and avoid abrupt steering maneuvers
- When merging into traffic, take it slow— Sudden movements can cause your vehicle to slide
- Don’t pass a snowplow or spreader unless it is absolutely necessary— treat these as you would emergency response vehicles
- Keep an emergency winter driving kit in your car (see list below)
- Maintain at least a half tank of gas during the winter season. This is good for emergency preparedness and it keeps the fuel line from freezing.
- Most importantly, drive smart!
Winter Driving Safety Kit
While preparing your vehicle for winter weather, make sure to pack these safety items in case of an emergency:
- Blankets or sleeping bags
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Battery-powered radio
- Jumper or booster cables
- Emergency flares
- Extra winter attire (boots, hat, mittens, socks, etc)
- A shovel and a rope
- Tow chain
- Bottled water and nonperishable food items
- A first-aid kit
- Road salt, sand, or non-clumping cat litter for tire traction
- Cell phone and car charger
- Ice scraper and snow brush
- Spare tire, tire repair kit, and pump
Further Winter Safety Tips
Here are more miscellaneous tips and tricks to keep you and your loved ones safe this winter:
- Never use a generator, grill, or other gasoline/propane/natural gas/ charcoal-burning device inside a closed home or garage.
- Never leave your vehicle running in the garage without proper ventilation (opening windows/doors/etc.)
- Install carbon monoxide alarms in central locations on every level of your home and outside sleeping areas. Ifthe carbon monoxide alarm sounds, move quickly to a fresh air location outdoors or by an open window or door.
- Call for help from the fresh air location and remain there until emergency personnel arrive to assist you.