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Trapped in your car during a bad snowstorm?

February 4, 2014 by Steven M. Gursten

6 tips to keep yourself safe

With all of the havoc in the news about the snow and ice in Atlanta last week –  where just a couple inches of snow shut down the city and stranded drivers on interstates for hours (and in some cases overnight) – here are some important safety tips for what you can do when you’re trapped in your car during a snow storm or in bad winter weather.

In Michigan, where I practice personal injury law, two inches of snow or even iced-over highways usually wouldn’t cause serious problems (sorry, Atlanta).  But regardless of what part of the country you live in, bad winter weather can make for extremely hazardous driving conditions. And drivers must be prepared to handle winter driving emergencies when there’s a snowstorm or roads become hopelessly gridlocked.

Here are six steps to keeping safe when you’re stuck:

  1. Stay where you are: It’s safer inside your car. First of all, it’s warmer and can protect against hypothermia. Second, I’ve been involved in too many car accidents where people were injured getting out of their car.  If you get out of your car and another car slides on ice and snow near your vehicle, it could very well hit you and run you over. The only exception is if there’s a gas station or safe shelter nearby where you can warm up, in which case you should exit your vehicle only after it is clear that traffic has safely stopped all around you.
  2. Turn off the engine: Even if you have gas in the tank,  it’s best to turn your engine on once every 20 minutes or so to warm up. This is because you don’t know how long exactly you will be stranded, and you need to preserve the fuel.
  3. Don’t sleep, especially with the engine running: Keeping the engine running while at a standstill can cause carbon monoxide to flow into your car.  This can poison and in some cases, even kill you even when you are outside.  Make sure to periodically check your tail pipe to make sure there’s no snow clogging it.
  4. Bundle up: Wrap yourself in anything handy, like clothing or blankets, to keep the heat from leaving your body. It is a great idea to keep a thick blanket in your trunk for emergencies.
  5. Don’t waste your cell phone battery: Try not to surf the Internet, listen to music or do anything that will burn up your battery. Again, you don’t know how long you will be stranded, so you need your cell phone to call for help and communicate with your loved ones.
  6. Move your body: At least once on the hour, move your body and stretch to keep warm and the blood flowing.

For when you’re back at it and driving again, consider these 14 tips on how to avoid car accidents in snow and ice.

And remember, it’s always a good idea to pack an emergency kit for your car, in case such a winter weather crisis should arise. Here are some things you could include in your emergency kit:

  • Jumper cables,
  • Blankets,
  • Warm clothes,
  • Flares,
  • First-aid kit,
  • Flashlight,
  • Bottled water,
  • Snacks,
  • Shovel,
  • Matches,
  • Candles.

Related information:

Accident lawyer gives his best winter driving safety tips

What to do (and what not to do) when driving in a winter whiteout

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