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ROAD & TRAVEL Safety & Security: How to Handle a Winter Breakdown

How to Handle a Winter Vehicle Breakdown

Breakdowns are an inconvenient fact of life, but a breakdown in freezing winter weather can quickly turn from inconvenient to deadly. All too often motorists are caught off-guard and unprepared during cold, snowy months without the knowledge necessary to save themselves.

Keep yourself and your family prepared this season by traveling in dangerous winter weather only when crucial. If a drive is necessary, be sure to inform someone of the travel route, destination and expected arrival time. Make plans to get in touch with a friend or family member at a specific time and create a plan of action if the driver is unreachable.

Travelers should also remember to keep their gas tanks near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

If you do get stuck in slick conditions, the following actions should be taken:

  • Stay with your car. Do not try to walk to safety.

  • Tie a brightly colored cloth (preferably red) to the antenna for rescuers to see.

  • Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the car.

  • Leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so you can be seen.                                              

  • As you sit, keep moving your arms and legs to keep blood circulating and to stay warm.

  • Keep one window away from the blowing wind slightly open to let in air.

Be prepared for cold-weather travel by preparing yourself with the following:

  • Most of your body heat is lost through your head so wear a hat, preferably one that covers your ears.

  • Dressing in warm layers helps you retain heat. You can remove layers as you need to, if you become too warm.

  • Mittens provide more warmth to your hands than gloves.

  • Hypothermia is a serious condition. Warning signs for detecting severely low body temperature are memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, exhaustion, and uncontrollable shivering. People generally suffer from hypothermia after being over-exposed to extremely cold weather, dangerous wind chills, ice and snowstorms, freezing rain or sleet Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia that can be a serious medical condition: confusion, dizziness, exhaustion and severe shivering. Seek medical attention immediately if you have these symptoms.

  • Wear waterproof, insulated boots to help avoid hypothermia or frostbite by keeping your feet warm and dry, it also helps you maintain your footing in ice and snow.

Before heading out, look for detailed reports on the weather in your area at or find details on winter storms at or

(Source: ARC)