Despite the colder weather, traveling has managed to remain a favorite tradition during the Autumn and Winter months.
With chilling weather conditions there comes a certain level of danger. When traveling during this season, expect the unexpected. According to data conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety and the Auto Insurance Center, wintry weather conditions have killed over 4,000 Americans in car accidents.
Mudslides, flooding, falling trees and power lines, black ice, and blizzard conditions can be some of the types of severe weather encountered as the weather becomes freezing. Don’t be one of those caught off guard. Here are some tips on how to stay safe while traveling during this cold and rainy season.
1.) Carry an emergency and first aid kit in your car
As always, expect the unexpected. A vehicle breaking down is not always so easily predicted. If your vehicle is to break down, you don’t know how long you’ll be stranded. The American Red Cross suggests carrying an emergency kit in your car with enough supplies for everyone traveling inside the vehicle. Some items that should be included are the following: blankets or sleeping bags, rain gear and winter clothing, newspapers for insulation, a cell-phone or two-way radio (fully charged) and chargers, and non-perishable food items. A fully equipped first aid kit for vehicles can also be purchased from stores like almost any store.
2.) Tell someone where you are going, what route you are taking, and your estimated arrival time
When traveling in severe weather conditions, especially for a long distance, there are many things that can go wrong, including vehicle failure and getting lost. By telling someone your travel plans, it would give a way to pass on this important information to rescuers/responders if something were to go wrong.
3.) Never take a back road shortcut. Stay on the main road.
One might say that taking a back road would be safer because there are less cars and traffic. However, back roads aren’t taken car of like the main road is, so it will be slicker, icier, and more likely dangerous. Back roads are also more likely to have falling debris, such as trees, and are more likely to have mudslides, while main roads such as I-5 are maintained by the Oregon Department of Transportation. Staying on a main road also makes it easier for rescuers and responders should an accident or emergency occur.
4.) Check road conditions before driving
There are many ways to do this. Local radio and television stations are quick to announce road closures and severe weather conditions. They also update frequently. Another way to keep informed about road conditions is to use Trip Check. Trip Check gives access to the Oregon Department of Transportation cameras, so you can see road conditions for yourself, and can be adjusted to different routes.
5.) Get your car serviced
Nobody wants their vehicle to break down during any season, but severe winter weather can be a particularly scary time for a vehicle to fail. The National Safety Council (NSC) recommends having a mechanic check the vehicle’s systems, including the ignition, brakes, wiring, and battery.
6.) Have tires with adequate tread, and carry a set of tire chains
This is especially true if you are going to travel roads with heavy snowfall and icy conditions. A tire with no tread will lose traction and slide, which is more likely to result in loss of vehicle control. Once the winter weather becomes extreme, many roads will require you to have snow tires or carry tire chains, including the I-5 corridor and Highway 138, heading towards Diamond Lake and Crater Lake.
7.) If stranded: stay in vehicle and wait for help.
AAA says to stay in the vehicle because “it provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you,” while the American Red Cross says to “not leave the vehicle to search for assistance unless help is visible within 100 yards” because there is a potential of getting lost, leading to a potentially deadlier situation.
8.) Know what to expect from your insurance
Knowing what your insurance covers is important. Depending on the plan, some insurances may only cover certain things. One insurance plan might only cover a tow for 10 miles while another may cover the entire distance you need or no distance at all. It’s best to know what your insurance covers, so you don’t get stuck paying out of pocket. Also, keep phone numbers from your insurance company and local AAA in your phone for quick and easy access in case of an emergency.
Driving in winter weather has the potential to be dangerous, but following some of these tips can help you keep you prepared for the unexpected.
For those who don’t feel comfortable driving in the upcoming winter weather but still need to get to school, you can purchase a bus pass from the UCC Accounting Specialist in the Student Center for $50 per term. If you can’t afford a bus pass, you can apply for a subsidized bus pass through ASUCC.
For more safe driving tips, see the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration website.