Winter car safety

Dana Fowler, Special to The County
7 years ago

Here we are already in the middle of October.  It’s scary just how fast time seems to fly these days.  Before we know it, and many of us don’t want to even think about it, winter will be upon us.  That being the case, now is the time to start getting prepared.  Winter preparation means different things to different people, but typically that includes stocking up on pellet, making sure we have a good winter coat and boots, and even getting the snow-blower serviced.  One thing that seems to slip through the cracks is having a winter car emergency kit.  However, being prepared can save a life – and it could be yours!

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Severe Storms Lab (NSSL) reports that approximately 70% of winter weather related injuries occur in a vehicle. indicates that over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually; every year, nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet; and each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet.

Many of these accidents or incidents of being stuck in a car in bad weather start innocently enough with someone leaving the house to run a quick errand or making a short trip to the store or to visit a friend or family member.  We all know it doesn’t take long for the weather here in northern Maine to change unexpectedly and road conditions can deteriorate rapidly.  

Here are some tips to be safer on the roads in the winter.  Make certain your vehicle is regularly maintained and that you always keep the fuel level above half a tank in the winter months.  Always tell someone where you are heading and when you expect to be back.  And, lastly, prepare a “winter emergency kit” for your car.  Items that should be in your kit include:

— A small shovel, windshield scraper, and small broom

— A flashlight with extra batteries

— A batter operated radio

— Water and snacks such as energy bars

— Small candles and matches

— A first aid kit

— At least one blanket

— A tow rope or chain

— Booster cables

— A cell phone charger that plugs into the car cigarette lighter

— Emergency flares and reflectors

— Cat litter to help traction

If you should become stranded in your vehicle in a storm, do not leave the car as you stand a better chance of being found with your vehicle and it is also the best shelter from the weather.  Call for help immediately.  Be sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow.  Roll your window down just enough to vent the vehicle to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.  Run hour vehicle for 15-20 minute intervals to keep warm.

Hopefully, you will never need to use this advice, but it is always best to be prepared. Stay safe and enjoy the upcoming winter weather!

Dana H. Fowler, P.E., is public services director for the city of Presque Isle. He can be reached at 760-2707 or via email at