As a major storm bears down on the region, the American Red Cross reminds people to take precautions when driving in inclement weather. According to the National Weather Service, about 70 percent of winter deaths related to ice and snow occur in automobiles.
"The best thing to do is to avoid travel, if at all possible, during the storm," said American Red Cross Northeastern New York Region spokesperson Caroline Boardman. "Stay safe, stay home and give road crews the opportunity to do their job." If you must travel, Boardman said, there are important tips to keep in mind.
The National Weather Service reports that many people die each year when they attempt to leave their vehicle during a storm to walk to safety. Stranded drivers should stay with their car, tie a bright piece of cloth to the car's antenna or door handle and try to contact emergency personnel by mobile phone.
While stranded, drivers should start and run their car for 10 minutes every hour, using the heater. Be sure that your exhaust pipe and radiator are clear of packed snow before running your engine. While the engine is running, partially open a down-wind window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and to get fresh air into the vehicle. Keep the vehicle's interior lights on while the engine is running. Avoid hypothermia by constantly moving your arms and leg; clapping hands will help keep you warm as well. Warning signs of hypothermia are memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness, exhaustion and uncontrollable shivering.
Boardman reminds people to carry essential supplies. "You should have some basics on hand - such as a flashlight, extra batteries and bottled water - in case you do get stuck somewhere. Also, be sure to carry a cell phone and car charger."
A winter travel survival kit may include:
Other travel tips:
Visit www.redcross.org/prepare for more information on preparing for cold weather.