It’s cold outside, and the last thing you want to do is venture out in your car to brave the icy roads.
Sometimes it’s best to just stay home — but when you have to get out, it is important to stay safe on the road. In 2017, 273 people died on Utah roads, and the state has averaged roughly the same number of deaths since 2014.
As you head out this winter, take some precautions to keep yourself and your family safe in your car. Here are five ways you can protect yourself this winter in — and around — your car.
Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
Winter is a common time for carbon monoxide poisoning as people turn on furnaces and other fuel-burning appliances. While many people remember to keep an eye on their furnace, they may not realize there is another carbon monoxide producer at their home — the family car. It’s tempting to start the car ahead of time to get it warm and avoid the cold winter air while you drive, but it can be dangerous if your car is in or near your home. Never leave a car running in the garage, even if the door to the house is closed. If the car is parked outside near an open door, its exhaust can also get into the house.
Prepare your car for emergencies
Keep your car prepared for driving in winter weather, even if you don’t expect to encounter any snow. Make sure your tires have enough tread, replace your windshield wiper blades, and check your battery’s health. Fill up your fluids, including windshield wiper fluid and coolant, and fill your gas tank. Keep an emergency kit in your car and always clear the snow off your car so you can see well, and other drivers aren’t hit by your flying snow.
Drive carefully in the snow
Being overconfident in your driving skills in the winter can make you a danger to yourself and others on the road. Slow down and give other drivers plenty of room. Take your time changing lanes, turning and starting and stopping the car. Even when the roads look clear, keep an eye out for any black ice.
Be careful in parking lots
To be safe in your car, you first need to be able to get to your car without injury. Beware of ice around your car at home and in parking lots while shopping or going to work. Shovel the snow off your driveway and sidewalks to keep them free of ice. Shovel often and use caution to avoid hurting yourself when you clear the snow. Even shoveled or plowed parking areas can be icy, so be aware of shiny spots that could be black ice. Wear shoes with good traction to avoid slipping and falling on the frozen ground.
“Falling on the ice can cause serious injury, especially for older people. What seems like a minor slip and fall can lead to broken bones and head injuries,” says Sarah Hilton, a registered nurse. “Take your time walking where there might be ice and always wear appropriate footwear, even if the ground appears dry.”
Don’t bundle up in the car
Your car is going to be cold (especially since you now know you shouldn’t start warming it up in your garage). Your first notion might be to bundle yourself and your kids up before you head out, but you should think twice. A heavy coat can interfere with a child’s seat buckle or an adult’s seat belt and make you less safe in a crash. If you need to loosen the straps on your child’s car seat to fit them and their coat in the seat, the coat is too big to wear. Instead, give them a blanket or put the coat on them backwards after you’ve buckled them in.
Being prepared can help you be safe in your car this winter. Plan ahead to keep your car in working order and stocked up in case of an emergency. Follow these tips to ensure you are protected the next time you venture out of your warm house and into the cold.