A sudden blast of icy winter weather can result in roads becoming undrivable. Rapidly accumulating snow, sleet and freezing rain combined with steadily declining temperatures can create patches of ice that can send any vehicle off the road and increase your chances of being in an accident. Even if the roads are treated with salt, sodium chloride only lowers the freezing temperature of water to around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Treated roads are not always safe roads to drive on.
AAA released statistics from 2012 showing they were dispatched more than 30 million times for roadside assistance throughout the entire year. According the report, 40 percent of all roadside assistance calls required a vehicle to be towed. A sudden influx of severe winter weather could render your vehicle inoperable for a variety of reasons. To make things worse, it could be several hours or even days before help arrives.
If you found yourself stranded in a winter roadside accident off the side of an icy rural road, would you know how to survive the situation and get help? Suppose you look at your mobile phone and there is no signal. If you are in an area where there are no homes or businesses around you, walking to find help could prove to be a fatal decision. Would you know how to use the resources commonly found inside vehicles in order to establish shelter and safety.
Every winter roadside emergency situation is different. Being able to think quickly and assess your situation is the key to survival. After you have weighed your options and evaluated your resources, you should be able to increase your chances of beating the elements with a well-thought-out survival plan.
Don’t Leave Your Vehicle
It’s basic human instinct to get out of your vehicle and seek out help when your vehicle is incapacitated. That is not what experts suggest you do. Initially stay inside your vehicle and keep it running if at all possible while you begin brainstorming your plan to survive this situation. If your vehicle is in an accident, you should crack the window so that fresh air can enter the cabin. You should only evacuate the vehicle if you believe that it is at risk of catching on fire. If you leave your vehicle, experts suggest that your chances of survival will decrease dramatically.
Many motorists are killed each winter because they simply exit their vehicle to inspect the damages from a collision. Rapid snowfall can severely impair driver visibility. Oncoming traffic could hit the same patches of ice that you slid on, causing their vehicle to slide in the same general direction as yours. During Winter Storm Hercules, news reports told the story of two women who were killed when a tow truck happened to hit them as they stood outside of their vehicles assessing damages from a collision.
Tips for Surviving Inside Your Vehicle
If your vehicle has gasoline in it, you are probably able to heat the interior. Before you turn on the engine, ensure that the tailpipes are unobstructed. If they are, try to move the snow out of the way by using something other than your hands. Once you are able to cleanly start your engine, you will want to let it run between 5 and 10 minutes per hour. This process will prevent your fuel lines from freezing over and give your body some much-needed warmth from your vents. When you run your vehicle, you will want to slightly open the window that is facing the opposite direction in which the wind is blowing. This gives you fresh air, helps you avoid the wind chill and keeps precipitation out of your vehicle.
It is imperative that you wrap up in multiple layers and use any type of insulation available to you — such as a blanket or a tarp. Protecting yourself from the elements and staying dry will increase your chances of staying alive. Hypothermia sets in more quickly when a person is wet as opposed to when they are dry. The human body cools down 25 times faster when wet as opposed to being dry. When your body experiences extended periods of frigid temperatures, it goes into survival mode. Your body tries to keep your core organs warm, which means your fingers and toes get less blood flow. This makes your extremities susceptible to frostbite if they are exposed to winter weather for an extended period of time. Frostbite can occur in less than 40 minutes if the temperature and wind chill are both below zero.
Snow is a great insulator. However, you will want to ensure that your vehicle is visible to those who might be passing by or flying over. Government officials will often declare a state of emergency when the transportation grid is incapacitated by winter weather. Since police and emergency personnel will be the only ones patrolling the roads during a winter event, they will be cognizant of stranded motorists. If you are in a remote area and you see a vehicle approaching you, get out of your vehicle and try to get the motorist’s attention so that you can receive help. The motorist may not stop, but it is possible that they will keep driving and alert emergency services to your whereabouts.
What Would You Drink?
If you have been sitting in your vehicle for several hours and you are unsure of when help will arrive, you need to be aware of the most basic survival principals. Your body can go a couple of weeks without food. You could be at risk of dehydration if you go more than a couple days without water. You may want to get creative and find ways to capture snow and convert it into water. If you a have a cup or canister, you could collect snow and figure out a way to melt it down and drink the water.
If your car has a cigarette lighter port commonly found near the middle console, you could use this apparatus to get a quick centralized burst of heat without having to turn on your engine. Just turn the ignition to where the vehicle has power but isn’t running and push the car lighter into the port. This will heat up the coil and you could use the burst of heat to help keep your extremities warm or create a fire if needed.
If you have been stranded for quite sometime and you fear help may not be on the way, you might have to resort to drastic measures. A man in Northern Canada was stranded for several days when he became desperate and decided to destroy a wooden power pole, which knocked out power to several hundred residents in a town about 20 miles away. The man knew that the power company would have to come out and investigate the down power lines — which ultimately led to his rescue. You should only resort to a creative method like this if your life is absolutely dependent upon it. Be sure to utilize all of the resources at your disposal in efforts to get someone’s attention so that you can have help dispatched to you and your vehicle.