Safe Driving in Wintry Weather

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    Nurses are responsible for providing vital medical care to patients despite inclement weather. It is important for nurses to be understand the importance of preparation and planning for driving in wintry precipitation. This article will provide tips for safe winter travel.

    Safe Driving in Wintry Weather

    I live in a small rural town in Alabama and wintry precipitation is an uncommon event. Overall, drivers in Alabama are particularly novice when it comes to navigating the challenges of driving in ice and snow. I recently returned to hospital nursing and experience anxiety when the weather forecast even hints at winter mischief. Hospitals continue to provide a vital medical service to the community they serve despite severe weather conditions. Therefore, it is important to be prepared and aware of safe driving strategies.

    To drive or not to drive; that is often the question. The policy for inclement weather at my facility is personal safety is primary. However, critical staff are also encouraged to report "if at all possible". It is often a stressful decision nurses need to make during inclement winter weather. Hospitals will often call staff in early to decrease the risk of driving in snow and ice and ensure adequate nursing coverage. In addition, hospitals will often designate volunteers with four-wheel drive vehicles to assist in transporting staff to work safely.

    During the winter months, it is important to maintain a winter kit for your vehicle. Suggested items include:
    • Window scraper
    • Kitty litter or sand in case stuck
    • Extra clothing (include hat, scarf and mittens)
    • Blanket
    • High protein snacks
    • Water
    • First aid kit
    • Flashlight
    • Small battery operated radio
    • Emergency contact names and numbers
    • Extra prescription medications
    • Cell phone adapter for charging phone
    • Booster cables
    • Emergency reflectors
    • Depending on your geographical area, your winter car kit may contain additional items, such as tow chain or rope and a sleeping bag.

    It is important to make sure your gas tank stays at least a half tank full. If you do get stuck in the snow, it is important to stay with your car. If you are not immediately near a place of safety, do not try to walk. Place an emergency reflector or tie a brightly colored cloth to your antennae to signal for help. When your car is running, turn on the overhead light to help others see your vehicle to prevent dangerous fumes from building in your car, use your heater for only 10 minutes every hour. Finally, consider opening one window away from the cold wind to let fresh air in.

    It is good to review safe driving tips in preparation for wintry weather. It seems simple, but let someone know where you are going, what route you are taking and your estimated time of arrival. This information will make it easy to locate your car if it gets stuck. Implement safe driving basics such as, wear seatbelt, avoid distractions (cell phones, texting), don't follow too closely and don't use cruise control. Be sure to accelerate slowly to avoid hydroplaning. Also, remember bridges, overpasses and tunnels will ice first and will often be slick with difficult to see black ice.

    The decision to drive or not to drive is often challenging. If roads are closed by local or state emergency management services, the decision to drive is often made for you. As a nurse, you have a responsibility to the community you serve to be aware of forecasts and prepared for inclement weather. A final tip is to maintain a positive attitude. When I entered the nursing profession, my desire to provide care and assistance for others outweighed the inconvenience of wintry weather.

    For additional information, please visit the following resources:

    National Weather Service. Prepare! Don't let a winter storm take you by surprise

    Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Safe winter driving (pdf)

    American Automobile Association. How to go on ice and snow (pdf)
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    6 Comments

  3. by   No Stars In My Eyes
    Good, common sense advice for a hot-button issue.
  4. by   jasia52
    Another tip: plan an alternate "snow route" (if feasible) to use. I had a route using main roads that were plowed early and was relatively flat and straight.
  5. by   amoLucia
    One thing that I always see mentioned is to have "WATER" avail. BUT ...

    If ambient air temperatures stay consistently below freezing, won't the water freeze???

    I have had some liquids in the car freeze over the years. And some have burst. So long term packing is out of the picture.

    Any other suggestions??
  6. by   Mudpinesredneck
    My current driving setup

    Bolt cutters
    Jumper cables
    Slime tire patch
    2 spare quarts, Royal Purple 5W30 oil
    Siphon hose

    Toolbox with:

    Extra fuses
    Stripper set for various wiring
    butt connectors 22GA/16CAL
    Wrenches
    Screwdrivers and drill bits
    Krazy glue
    Duct tape
    Inflatable gas can

    My laptop bag
    School books
    Gym bag with 2 days worth of clothing + jackets
    Dog blanket, extra dog food
    -20 sleeping bag

    3 days of food in MRE's
    Water, silcock key, water filters
    3 gallons of water + half gallon of sweet tea
    Some easily microwavable food
    Extra smokes and a pint of fireball
    Fishing kit
    Rope for making traps and snares
    Travel hammock, camo color
    Extra 550 cord
    N95 respirator masks
    Flint and steel
    9v battery, steel wool
    Waterproof matches
    16 inch machete that will cut a tree branch like a hot knife through butter
    Stove and mess kit
    2 Nalgene bottles

    First aid kit...no seriously, I can do gunshot wound surgery out the back of my SUV

    Caterpillar battery pack + jumpstarter and air compressor

    Baofeng UV-82HP Transceiver that also picks up EMS/LE/Fire/pretty much anything 2 meter 440, and FM radio as well

    Backup phone, loaded with offline maps, SOAP note, CPR rhythm app, and a list of food sources, backroads I know about, and repair manual for my car

    If that ain't prepped for the winter, or the zombie acopalypse I don't know what is...

    Everday carry...

    Phone
    Headphones
    Flashlight
    Keys with CPR shield, flash drive loaded with operating systems and portable apps, handcuff key (Yes, I trained for E&E)
    Smith and Wesson Border Guard II with seatbelt cutter and glass breaker
    Wallet. Going to get a ITS Tactical lock pick kit
    My beloved Copenhagen wintergreen
    Bandanna, tourniquet/mask impromptu
    Leatherman Wave multitool
    Paracord bracelet with ferricium rod
    Watch
    Keep another spare knife in my boot as well
    Last edit by Mudpinesredneck on Jan 16
  7. by   No Stars In My Eyes
    Quote from Mudpinesredneck
    My current driving setup

    Bolt cutters
    Jumper cables
    Slime tire patch
    2 spare quarts, Royal Purple 5W30 oil
    Siphon hose

    Toolbox with:

    Extra fuses
    Stripper set for various wiring
    butt connectors 22GA/16CAL
    Wrenches
    Screwdrivers and drill bits
    Krazy glue
    Duct tape
    Inflatable gas can

    My laptop bag
    School books
    Gym bag with 2 days worth of clothing + jackets
    Dog blanket, extra dog food
    -20 sleeping bag

    3 days of food in MRE's
    Water, silcock key, water filters
    3 gallons of water + half gallon of sweet tea
    Some easily microwavable food
    Extra smokes and a pint of fireball
    Fishing kit
    Rope for making traps and snares
    Travel hammock, camo color
    Extra 550 cord
    N95 respirator masks
    Flint and steel
    9v battery, steel wool
    Waterproof matches
    16 inch machete that will cut a tree branch like a hot knife through butter
    Stove and mess kit
    2 Nalgene bottles

    First aid kit...no seriously, I can do gunshot wound surgery out the back of my SUV

    Caterpillar battery pack + jumpstarter and air compressor

    Baofeng UV-82HP Transceiver that also picks up EMS/LE/Fire/pretty much anything 2 meter 440, and FM radio as well

    Backup phone, loaded with offline maps, SOAP note, CPR rhythm app, and a list of food sources, backroads I know about, and repair manual for my car

    If that ain't prepped for the winter, or the zombie acopalypse I don't know what is...

    Everday carry...

    Phone
    Headphones
    Flashlight
    Keys with CPR shield, flash drive loaded with operating systems and portable apps, handcuff key (Yes, I trained for E&E)
    Smith and Wesson Border Guard II with seatbelt cutter and glass breaker
    Wallet. Going to get a ITS Tactical lock pick kit
    My beloved Copenhagen wintergreen
    Bandanna, tourniquet/mask impromptu
    Leatherman Wave multitool
    Paracord bracelet with ferricium rod
    Watch
    Keep another spare knife in my boot as well
    You are WAY, WAY beyond being a Scout and being prepared! You are handier than a side-pocket and better than sliced bread! (Southern-isms)
    I am completely and totally impressed, and by those standards I shouldn't even ever be driving a car under any conditions anywhere at all for any reason!
  8. by   JBudd
    Quote from amoLucia
    One thing that I always see mentioned is to have "WATER" avail. BUT ...

    If ambient air temperatures stay consistently below freezing, won't the water freeze???

    I have had some liquids in the car freeze over the years. And some have burst. So long term packing is out of the picture.

    Any other suggestions??
    Get a flexible water container, and don't fill it all the way so that the ice has room to expand. Too frozen to drink? put it near your heater, or inside your coat to thaw enough to drink.

    Alternative, if you must eat snow to survive, melt it in your mouth before swallowing, so you are not putting the worst of the coldness directly to your core.

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