Homeland Security offers winter weather driving reminders

Traffic creeps along I-55 in north Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 as ice and snow flurries cause difficult driving conditions. A severe winter storm is expected to hit the state bringing ice and snow to the Gulf Coast. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Traffic creeps along I-55 in north Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 as ice and snow flurries cause difficult driving conditions. A severe winter storm is expected to hit the state bringing ice and snow to the Gulf Coast. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Indiana Department of Homeland Security (INDHS) offered reminders to consider when preparing vehicles for travel during winter storms.

Being prepared to handle potential slide-offs, accidents or other car trouble in winter is a simple, but crucial step to take when preparing for winter, INDHS said. INDHS director public affairs John Erickson recommends a readiness kit be kept in the car in case motorists are stranded during a winter storm.

A readiness kit should include the following:

  • Cell phone and charger for vehicle use
  • At least two blankets or a sleeping bag
  • Bottled water and non-perishable food
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • First aid kit and necessary medication
  • Jumper cables
  • Emergency flares
  • Extra clothing, including boots, hats and gloves
  • Sand or non-clumping cat litter for tire traction
  • Ice scraper and snow brush

Indiana residents are also encouraged to take the following measures to help ensure safety on the road:

  • Check tire pressure and tread depth. Use a pressure gauge to determine if tire tread is deep enough to ensure good traction. Consult the owner’s manual for advice.
  • Look for uneven wearing on tires, which can also be dangerous.
  • Check battery, exhaust systems, heater and defroster. Make sure the battery is not past its lifespan, and that the terminals are tight and free of corrosion. Hoses and belts should be inspected for cracks. Now is the time to discover if the heater is broken, not when on the road.
  • Check antifreeze. Make sure that a 50% antifreeze, 50% water mixture is at the proper radiator level. If the coolant is two years old get it flushed and refilled.
  • It is a good idea to keep at least a half tank of gas in the car at all times during the winter months, to keep the fuel lines from freezing.

Before leaving home, INDHS says to make sure to clear off any snow or ice that may be on windows, lights and signals to ensure visibility around the car. It’s also important to be familiar with the vehicle’s winter weather operating characteristics. Front-wheel-drive vehicles generally handle better than rear-wheel-drive vehicles on slippery roads because of the weight of the engine is on the drive wheels, improving traction.

Anyone who is in an accident or slide off, encounters vehicle trouble or becomes stuck in the snow it is important to do the following:

  • Do not leave the car. It is likely the best protection against the cold and storms
  • Run the engine for 10 minutes every hour to stay warm. An idling car only uses about one gallon of gas per hour.
  • If a cell phone is not readily available to call fro help, tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna for rescuers to see.
  • Keep the overhead light on when the engine is running so other motorists can see the car (remember to keep the windows cracked).
  • Keep the exhaust pipe free of blockage to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If it is necessary to leave the vehicle during a severe snow storm or blizzard, secure a line of rope to the vehicle to avoid becoming lost or disoriented.
  • Never eat snow, it will lower body temperatures.

For more information on winter weather preparedness, visit GetPrepared.IN.gov.