I've slid off the road. Now what? If you’ve never driven a car in treacherous winter weather, this post is for you! Expect to encounter ice, black ice, frigid air, fierce winds, snow bombs, artic blasts, whiteouts, and windchill. In these types of extreme conditions, the best advice I can share with you is don’t drive, period! If you must drive or get caught in an unexpected arctic freeze, make sure you have supplies stored onboard to survive. Extreme winter conditions raise the possibility of spending a day or longer stranded inside your vehicle, cold, dehydrated, and hungry!
I slid off the road during a snowstorm. Now what?
Use your cell phone to call 911.
If you are out of cell range and cannot call out...
- Don't leave the vehicle unless help is in sight.
- Open windows slightly to allow fresh air to circulate while running vehicle engine.
- Fresh air reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Check and clear your cars exhaust tail pipe making sure its free of snow.
- Signal help by turning on flashers, raising the hood of the vehicle, the universal call for help.
- Tie a bright colored cloth to the vehicles antenna to attract attention.
- Do not build a fire inside of your vehicle.
Vehicle Supply list For Driving in Freezing Winter Conditions
- 1 Gallon, (four liters) of drinking water minimum
- Extra water for traveling pets
- Cell phone - charged
- Flashlight & extra batteries
- Hand warmers
- Blankets - throws - sleeping bag
- Extra clothing - jackets - winter hats - gloves - mittens - extra socks
- Toilet paper/sanitary napkins
- Mylar emergency blankets
- Large garbage bags - to cover shoes - use as rain poncho and rain pants
- 50ft of homing cord/avalanche cord
Emergency Grub, First Aid, Tools
- Canned food - power bars
- Pet food
- Can opener
- Multi-tool - Swiss army knife
- First Aid Kit
- Jumper Cables
- Bucket of sand or bag of cat litter to use for tire traction
I slid off the road. Now what?
A waterproof poncho covering the head and torso below the knees acts as shelter and helps keep you dry and traps body heat.
Foot wear, snow boots and shoes, waterproof, with liners that can be taken out and dried are best. And can be easily stored in your vehicle.
Emergency Shoe Covers: Plastic Garbage Bags to the Rescue!
In emergencies, Sneakers and athletic shoes will become sop and wet from walking in the snow or rain.
Plastic garbage bags can be knotted around each shoe before stepping outside to protect shoes and feet from getting wet. Double or triple bags if needed.
Garbage bags are easily stored in the front seat of your vehicle and in the vehicle's gear bin.
Garbage Bags for Rain Gear
A simple and cost effective way to have emergency rain and snow protection is to have plenty of large garbage bags stored in your vehicle.
- Plastic garbage bags can be used as rain gear for both the upper and lower body.
- Upper torso, make holes by tearing the bag for each arm where needed.
- Lower torso, make holes for each leg, tearing the bag where needed.
- Double or triple bags if needed providing even more protection and insulation
Blankets & Sleeping Bags
Extra blankets, Sleeping bags, and sleeping pad for each person will make an emergency overnight in a freezing vehicle more bearable.
If you do not have a sleeping pad, use any extra clothing, paper, cardboard, dry grasses, or leaves, which can be used to create a nest to sit or lay upon providing insulation from the cold. Lightweight sleeping pads made for backpacking are best.
Utilize Body heat
If there are two or more people or pets in your car, cozy up together. And use each other's body heat to help keep everyone warm.
What's the most important supplies to have in your vehicle during winter driving
What your body needs to survive.
- Maintain core body temperature - 98.6 F.
- Hydration - stay fully hydrated - you need water to digest food.
- Fuel - food warms up our body during digestion while giving us energy.
Clothing to maintain core body temperature
Extra clothing for added layers for warming and maintaining the body’s core temperature.
Wool or synthetics are best
Wool provides a warming benefit even when wet. Whereas cotton material loses all warming benefit when wet.
- Winter type wool hats, gloves, mittens, socks, and or quick dry synthetic alternatives.
- Long sleeved shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts
- Long underwear top and bottoms
- Pants, sweats, rain pants
- Always have extra socks in your emergency bin.
Drink Water for Hydration
- Drinking water is the best way to keep your body hydrated and healthy.
- It is best to have at least (1) gallon of drinking water stored in your vehicle for emergencies.
- The rule of thumb is one (1) gallon of water per person per day. Four (4) liters.
Liquids that dehydrate the body
- Alcohol dehydrates the body and impairs the brain's ability to think.
- Soda and energy drinks are also dehydrating.
- Coffee and black tea cause more urination thus depleting the body of needed water.
Emergency Foods to Fuel the Body
Canned foods are the simplest way to store and access energy rich foods.
Pull-top cans do not require a can opener but sometimes fail. So having a dedicated can opener in your vehicle bin is a good idea. See Ready.gov recommendation for food safety.
- Canned foods are a great choice to store in your vehicle's emergency bin.
- Precooked foods can be stored for a long time and be eaten straight from the can without heating or cooking.
- Stockpile your favorite canned foods to help keep spirit’s high.
- Power Bars take little room to store and quick to fuel your body. Rotate power bars every few months.
Redundancy is the keyword in survival. That means you want to have your important items within easy reach. While the main emergency bin or supply box is stored behind the seat, trunk, or boot, of your rig.
I carry two (2) flashlights near the driver's seat. One is a large floodlight that can be used as an emergency blinker. And a smaller flashlight both kept within arms reach.
Have backup batteries in the same accessible area for your flashlight.
Cell phones are indispensable during an emergency. Keep phones charged and close by for emergency use. Don’t use your cell phone while driving even during an emergency.
First Aid Kit
It’s always wise to have an emergency first aid kit aboard your vehicle. I recommend you make up your own personal emergency kit.
The first aid kit should be carried in a waterproof container and should be periodically checked for used supplies or outdated medications, torn packaging. The list below contains first aid supplies I carry in my day pack and truck.
Simple First Aid Kit Example
- Triangle bandage or large bandana
- 2 rolls of 3” stretch bandage (“VetWrap”)
- 1 roll of sterile gauze
- One elastic (ACE type) bandage
- Six to ten 4” x 4” sterile gauze pads
- Moleskin (or equivalent for blister treatment)
- Tincture of benzoin
- Over the counter pain/inflammation medication
- Over the counter antihistamine -Benadryl
- Personal medications
- CPR Mask
- Exam gloves latex free
Vehicle Storage Bin
We use transparent plastic bins for storing emergency gear in our vehicles. These are handy and give a quick visual for what we need.
Sometimes, all you’ll need is a medium sized daypack to store your emergency gear. It really depends on where you drive, in what conditions you expect to drive in, how many persons travel in the vehicle, and the time of year. Don't forget about to have emergency supplies on hand for pets.
Drive to Survive
If you drive in the part of the country where ice and snow is rare. The best advice I can give for these types of conditions: don’t drive! Follow emergency services directions from your your local authorities.
- If you must drive, drive cautiously while allowing more space between you and the car in front of you.
- Don't brake. Try not to brake as braking will often cause your vehicle to spin out of control.
- If you must use the brakes, do so at low slow speeds.
- Drive with your emergency and headlights on. Keep your car as visible as possible.
Tools to have in your trunk
- Powerful flashlight
- Tire chains are excellent tools giving your vehicle traction during ice and snow driving conditions. Make sure tire chains fit correctly before use.
- Short, handled shovel
- Bucket of sand or cat litter for traction
- Have your car serviced and ready for winter driving conditions.
- Follow your local emergency services recommendations when driving.
- Stay home and don't drive in dangerous winter conditions.
- Have emergency supplies put away in your car.
- Always have supplies stored for traveling with pets.
- Think safety.
What do you carry in your truck or car for winter driving?
Do you have your own tips or recommendations? We would love to hear from you.