Monday, December 17, 2012

Skidding In a Winter Wonderland

It looks like winter is here to stay. Here are some tips to help you stay safe...

Be careful when burning those great-smelling candles...and get a carbon monoxide detector......
  • Home fires are more prevalent in the winter months than any other season. Cooking is the leading cause of all winter residential building fires. Other winter fire hazards include space heaters, fireplaces and candles.
To see a startling video of how fast a (real) Christmas tree can burn, watch this video---the tree is completely engulfed in 30 seconds---
  • The cold weather increases your chances of getting frostbite or hypothermia. Between  the years of 1999-2004, an average of 647 people died each year from hypothermia.
  • In 2009, over 16,000 Americans were treated for head injuries in emergency rooms because of accidents while playing winter sports (skiing, sledding, snowboarding, snowmobiling). 
  • Fatal crashes were 14% more likely to happen on the first snowy day of the season than on days following. It takes drivers a few days to regain their sense of driving in this weather. 
  • According to the CDC, most carbon monoxide poisonings happen in January; the second most in December. Carbon monoxide detectors save lives, but less than one-third of American homes have one installed.

Drinking does not warm you up; in fact, it will make your body colder. If you have been drinking and/or using, have someone sober walk with you or drive you home. Every year we hear stories of college students wandering off and dying needlessly in the snow or in a lake or river, because they got disoriented and fell asleep outside.

It's said all the time, but we'll say it again: Be absolutely sure the ice is safe before you walk on it, skate on it, and of course when you drive on it. If you're in doubt, don't go out.

Even ice that looks perfectly fine can be deceptively thin:

And now to safety in your car in the winter.......

Avoid letting your car run close to Empty. Cars use more gas in the cold weather, and you may find yourself stuck in traffic, which will also cause the car to use gas-- even though it's idling. 

Be sure your windshield washer fluid is full, and get new wiper blades if you need them. Have a scraper and brush with you and when it snows, clean all your windows and lights off thoroughly, as well as your license plate. It will take a little extra time, but you need to see as well as possible on the road.

It's always good to carry jumper cables with you, especially in winter weather. Ask someone to show you how to use them, too. Here's a video showing you how--but READ all the instructions as well).

Consider checking the charge on your car battery: Do you need a new one? Better to get it before you need it!

Leave extra cold-weather gear in the car: extra gloves or mittens, hat, scarf, weather-type snow boots, even socks. You may be caught on a fashion-forward day without these items. A blanket, some snacks, and water for drinking is also smart. A bright bandanna or a piece of bright cloth will be good to tie on your antenna if you're stuck. Keep your cell phone charged, especially in winter.

If you are taking a longer trip, let someone know your planned route and when you expect to get there. That way, they will know where to look if you don't show up.

Consider having some cheap kitty litter or a couple of old floor mats in your trunk. You might be able to place these under your tires to get enough traction to get out of your situation. If someone offers to push your car, thank them, get in, and keep on driving once you get going---don't stop to say thank you again.

What if you get stranded in your car?
The National Safety Council gives this advice: 
Do not leave your vehicle 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 vehicle a safe distance away
  • Hang a brightly colored cloth from your antenna
  • If you are sure the vehicle's exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending on the amount of gas in the tank
  • Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia; use woolen items and blankets to keep warm
  • Keep at least one window open slightly as heavy snow and ice can seal a vehicle shut.

    Stay safe and warm this winter!!!

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