It’s never fun to have a roadside emergency. While it’s natural to think that everything will be fine while you’re on a leisurely drive, it’s also important to plan for the worst. If you’re a well-prepared driver, you probably already have an emergency kit in your vehicle that includes jumper cables, first-aid kits, and other items that assist with break-downs and other emergencies. It’s important to make an additional kit, though, specifically for winter. The cold weather here in Roanoke can present special challenges like snow, ice, freezing temperatures, and visibility issues, to name a few. You don’t want to get mixed up in that, do you?
Here are five items you should consider adding to your winter roadside safety kit.
Blanket, Gloves, Hats & Hand Warmers
Getting stuck on the side on the road without a source of heat can become life-threatening very quickly during the winter.
Over 1300 people die every year in the United States from exposure to cold—and it doesn’t have to be extremely cold, either. Cold temps kill 20 times as many people as heat does, and temperatures as mild as 50°F can bring on hypothermia to those who aren’t adequately protected. Plus, wind and moisture levels can turn a moderately cold day into a freezing one.
What to pack: Keep wool blankets, gloves, hand warmers, and hats in your winter emergency kit. Wool provides the best protection; the springy fibers in wool have air pockets and natural lanolin oil that allow it to keep 80% of its insulating power even when soaking wet. Cotton, polyester, rayon, and acrylic do not.
Portable Battery Chargers
There are two kinds of portable battery chargers you should keep in your vehicle: one to make sure you can charge a dead cell phone (or other portable devices), and another that can charge your car battery.
If you get stranded in the winter, it’s imperative that you have access to a working cell phone. As Murphy’s Law so aptly states, “anything that can go wrong probably will go wrong,” so there’s a chance that, on the one day you get a flat tire, you’ll also notice your cell phone’s dead. Be safe by keeping another form of power in your vehicle.
Cold is hard on vehicle batteries. It’s possible to emerge from a store to find that your car won’t start because your battery has suddenly died. Cold can reduce the energy capacity of your battery by 20 to 50%. Cold also makes starters, other electrical motors, and car accessories drain more energy from the battery. According to AAA, two-thirds of Americans have never even had their batteries tested to see if they can make it through the winter.
What to pack: Instead of calling AAA and waiting for someone to show up, or walking around asking strangers if you can get a jump, be proactive and keep a portable battery charger in your trunk. If you need assistance identifying a car battery problem, seek out the help from our INFINITI dealer near Lynchburg, VA. Our Roanoke auto service center can test and install car batteries before winter makes driving riskier.
Something to Get Unstuck
You’re driving down a familiar Roanoke road in the winter. You hit a patch of invisible black ice, and before you know it, you’re stuck in a snowy ditch. You can be the most conscientious driver in the world, and this scenario can still play out for you.
What to pack: Be sure to have something that helps you get out of such a situation. You have many options, such as a bag of sand or cat litter. You can also purchase foldable traction mats or traction blocks that attach to your tires to get you “unstuck.” Include a foldable camping shovel for safe measure.
Something to Boost Visibility
Winter is notorious for its gloomy, overcast days, blizzards, and early bouts of darkness. This presents an extra danger because if you can’t see or be seen, you are at increased risk of getting hit by other vehicles. Worst yet, with poor visibility, the event of someone seeing and coming to your aid after an accident is never certain. You may be on your own!
If you do find yourself stranded, stay with your vehicle. This gives you a better chance to avoid hypothermia or get lost, and it’s much easier for those who can help to find you. However, if you run your vehicle to keep warm, first step outside and make sure your tailpipe is not obstructed by snow or debris. If so, carbon monoxide could potentially build up inside, and that can be deadly.
What to pack: Include items that will enable you and your vehicle to be seen. Prepare for a scenario where you are on the side of the road in pitch blackness or when weather conditions set the visibility field for other drivers near zero. Pack flares, reflective markers, and even a reflective vest. You could opt for bright, battery-powered LED lights to set up around your vehicle, as well. And always store a flashlight and spare D batteries to signal S.O.S.
Food and Snacks
If you find yourself stuck during a winter storm, chances are there are hundreds of others who are in similar predicaments. This means you will be waiting a long time for help to arrive. In the event of a long blizzard or winter storm that Roanoke is infamous for having, it’s imperative that you pack sufficient amounts of food and water.
What to pack: Keep a gallon of potable water, as well as some energy bars or high-protein snacks in your car. This is especially crucial if you’re diabetic or prone to low blood sugar or other health conditions. If you travel with pets, make sure you have spare bottled water and pet food, as well. If you have young children, consider packing some entertaining toys, because the last thing you need in such a situation is a cranky child.
Are You Ready for Virginia’s Winters?
Data suggests that 17% of all vehicle crashes happen during winter, and over 800 Americans die every year in crashes that are a direct result of snow, sleet, freezing rain, or ice. Whether you’re from Blacksburg or Staunton, Virginia winters present extra risks for drivers, but a little preparation can keep you and your loved ones safe.
Contact Berglund INFINITI of Roanoke at (540) 344-6284 to make sure your car is winter-ready. Our Roanoke auto repair specialists can quickly and easily test your battery, antifreeze, starter, and alternator to give you extra peace of mind. We’ll help ensure you’re not one of those drivers who find themselves stuck outside on a cold, winter day.
If you need a safer winter vehicle, we can help there, too! We offer a wide variety of new INFINITI models and other used cars for sale, and can even assist you in acquiring low-interest rates on a car loan. Visit our Roanoke car dealers at 5000 Franklin Road to take a test drive.
Stay safe, Roanoke!