The Saskatchewan Safety Council encourages drivers to avoid being stranded this winter by maintaining their vehicles and adjusting for winter road and weather conditions.
“When people find themselves stranded in the winter, it is usually because of a mechanical failure with their vehicle or because their vehicle is stuck in the snow,” says Debbie Oliver, Saskatchewan Safety Council Program Manager. “Unfortunately, eight to ten people die every year from exposure to cold weather, often after straying away from their stranded vehicles,” says Oliver.
To avoid getting stuck in snow, Oliver recommends adjusting your driving style to the road condition. “Make sure you can see clearly and that you can stop. Plan your route and slow down,” she says.
When there is dangerous weather or road conditions, do not travel. If you must travel, stay on main roads. Tell someone your route plan and an estimated time of arrival.
Also, avoid a mechanical failure by keeping your vehicle in good working condition. Check the battery, brakes, cooling system, gasoline exhaust system, windshield, heating system, and tires.
If you are stranded, do not panic. You can survive if you stay with your vehicle. Lorraine Muller, a 68-year-old from Gimli, Manitoba, survived four nights in her vehicle last winter when she lost her way driving outside of Winnipeg. After taking a wrong turn, her car was stuck in the snow in an old farmyard. She tried to walk for help, but soon turned back.
For the next five days, Muller stayed with her vehicle and used her emergency supplies, common sense, and determination to survive. She turned on her four-way flashers, melted snow to drink, lit a candle with matches for warmth, and dressed in extra clothing she packed in the vehicle. She was discovered on the fifth morning by a local farmer and was returned safely to her worried family.
“When you are stranded, the most important action to take is to stay with your vehicle. Your vehicle is the best available shelter and the best signal for help, as rescuers often spot the vehicle first,” says Oliver.
While waiting for help, turn on the dome light and four-way flashers, run the motor occasionally, and open a window for air. If possible, drive the vehicle off of the travelled portion of the road. Keep yourself moving by doing light exercise. If shovelling snow, do not over-exert yourself or stay outside too long.
Be prepared for an emergency by storing a survival kit in your vehicle. The kit should contain a heat source, such as a candle and matches, high calorie non-perishable food items, basic first aid items, warm winter clothing, and extra keys. The heat source can be used to cook, to test the amount of air in the vehicle, to melt snow, and as a signal. It may be useful to have a cell phone, although it is not always reliable.
The Saskatchewan Safety Council offers two programs to help drivers learn more about winter driving safety and winter survival. The SkidSmart Collision Avoidance program teaches participants how to avoid situations that cause skids and collisions and how to regain control of the vehicle in a skid situation. The Winter Survival program teaches survival techniques that drivers can use if they are stranded in the winter. The Saskatchewan Safety Council also sells winter survival kits packed with food, candles, matches, eating utensils, and band aids for $50.
For more information on winter driving and winter survival, contact the Saskatchewan Safety Council at (306) 757-3197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.