BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — Before facing the recent winter storms, it might be a good idea to take a second look at your vehicle plans. We aim to go out on the roads as little as possible during blizzards and icy weather — but unfortunately, there are situations where one may need to drive to pick up supplies, bring a loved one to the hospital, or even flee their home in the event that one loses access to warmth and power.

Previously, KX has listed a selection of tools that organizations like the Red Cross and Farmer’s Almanac recommend that people who may have to drive in snowy or icy conditions should keep in their car in the event of an emergency. However, the discussion hasn’t included the actual steps one can take to ensure they are driving safely should they need to hit the road.

With some help from the Red Cross, we’ve put together a list of driving habits and strategies to guarantee you make it to your destination safely. Take a look at some of these steps to take when getting ready for the road and during your travels.

Before Driving:

  • Before leaving your home in a car, ensure your emergency supply kit is fully stocked with blankets, clothing, tools, food and water, etc. For a complete list of good resources to put in your tool kit, visit this page or check out KX’s article. Make sure you have plenty of supplies for each individual traveling in the vehicle.
  • Bring your cell phone, and ensure the battery is fully charged. A car charger should also be an essential part of your tool kit.
  • If you can, always attempt to travel during the day, and take at least one other person with you in the car.
  • Before leaving your home, check the weather reports for every area you intend to go through. You should also let someone else know your destination, route, and expected arrival time in case there are delays on the road ahead.

On The Road:

  • Driving slowly is the key to minimizing the risk of skidding on snow and ice. Try to reduce your speed as much as possible. Owning snow tires is also highly recommended, as is having a vehicle with all-wheel drive.
  • Always be on the lookout for sleet, freezing rain, freezing drizzles, and fog. If the conditions are too dangerous to continue, either pull over to the side of the road or return/proceed to the nearest safe and warm location.

In the worst possible scenarios, you may be stranded on the road due to the weather or an unexpected vehicle problem. If this is the case, don’t panic. Instead, follow these safety tips to ensure you’ll make it through the storm.

  • Above all, if you need to wait for help, stay in the vehicle or remain close to it as much as possible. Do not attempt to search for assistance by leaving the car unless help is clearly visible within 100 yards.
  • Do not entirely rely on one method of warmth or another. Turn the car’s engine on for about ten minutes every hour to use the heater. In the meantime, ensure the car’s exhaust pipe is clear of snow, slightly open a window for ventilation, and huddle with fellow riders or do light exercise (like clapping your hands, moving your arms, or basic calisthenics) to increase warmth and blood circulation. If more than one person is in the vehicle, take turns sleeping.
  • To indicate you need help, display a ‘trouble’ sign. You can do this by hanging bright cloth on the car’s radio antenna, raising the vehicle’s hood when the snow ceases to fall, or leaving the overhead light on in your vehicle so you can be seen.
  • Avoid overexertion through tasks like shoveling snow or pushing vehicles when possible. Too much work can lead to negative effects on one’s health such as heart attacks — which would only be made worse in a situation where one is stranded.

Driving safely during a snowstorm is no easy feat, and the threat of being stranded or frozen on the road is enough to make many unnerved. However, it’s our hope that these helpful tips will lead to taking the best proper steps to avoid just such a situation — and even if the worst does occur, that you’ll know the right steps to take to avoid being completely frozen out.

For more information about staying safe in deep freezes, visit the Red Cross’s web page on winter storm safety here.