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21st Space Wing Safety Office
/ Published October 11, 2016
The best advice for driving in bad winter weather is not to drive at all, if it can be avoided. Don't go out until the snow plows and salt or sand trucks have had a chance to do their work, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination. As with any time you drive, making sure the car is operating properly is critical. Now is an excellent time to have a competent mechanic give it a thorough look and familiarize yourself with your owner's manual for guidance specific to your vehicle’s handling characteristics.
In an emergency situation, in addition to a full tank of gas and fresh antifreeze, the National Safety Council recommends having the following items with you at all times:
• Properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod jack
• Jumper cables
• Tow and tire chains
• Bag of salt or cat litter for better tire traction or to melt snow
• Tool kit
• Flashlight and extra batteries
• Reflective triangles or flares
• First aid kit
• Windshield cleaner
• Ice scraper and snow brush
• Matches in a waterproof container
• Scissors and string or cord
• Nonperishable, high-energy foods like unsalted, canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy
• Blankets, mittens, socks and hats
Driving safely on icy roads
You've prepared your car and checked the weather, but suddenly you find yourself driving in slippery conditions. The National Safety Council recommends the following:
• Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you (8 - 10 seconds).
• Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake.
• Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other motorists.
• Keep your lights and windshield clean.
• Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.
• Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.
• Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first.
• Don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them much worse than the road behind.
• Don't assume your vehicle can handle all conditions. Even four-wheel and front-wheel drive vehicles can encounter trouble on winter roads.
What to do if you get stranded
• Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation.
• To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the car a safe distance away. Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna.
• If you are sure the car's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of gas in the tank.
• To protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia use woolen items and blankets to keep warm.
• Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.
Make sure someone knows when you departed, what your destination, intended route of travel and expected arrival time is. Remember that while a cell phone can be a great way to communicate distress, it should never take the place of pre-departure communication. Try to only travel when it is necessary during inclement weather.
Call the Peterson AFB Snow Call line at 556-SNOW (7669) to learn of any base closure or delayed reporting information and apply risk management principles before making the decision to drive in inclement weather.
Think ahead, be cautious and situationally aware so you make it to your destination AND back safely!