Drivers should always be ready for emergencies, but winter weather means extra preparation is in order. Whether you are headed north where snow and ice are the norm or staying here in South Carolina where frozen precipitation is less common, it’s important to be prepared.
While South Carolina normally has a mild climate, snow and ice do happen in the South. This was dramatically shown by the historic Halloween 2014 snowstorm, which dropped several record-breaking inches of snow in the Columbia area and elsewhere in South Carolina, making for snow-covered and dangerous roadways.
Keep an Emergency Kit in the Car
It’s a good idea to prepare an emergency kit for driving during the winter. Some of these items are a good idea to have at all times, but others are especially important when dealing with inclement weather.
Organizations such as AAA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest keeping the following items in your vehicle:
- A cellphone programmed with important numbers so you can call for help or let people know where you are when safely off the road. Make sure you have an in-car charger for your phone, too.
- A bag of kitty litter, sand or salt to gain traction in snowy or icy conditions.
- A snow shovel in case you need to dig out.
- An ice scraper with a brush to clear the car of ice and snow.
- A can of de-icer to help with ice on the car.
- Blankets and heavy clothing to stay warm, especially if you have to wait out a storm.
- Windshield wiper fluid to refill the reservoir since it might take more to keep the windshield clear. Make sure the fluid is formulated for winter so it won’t freeze.
- Chains or rope in case you get stuck.
- A flashlight with extra batteries to navigate in the dark.
- Drinking water and snacks in case the trip takes longer than planned or you can’t get to a restaurant or store.
- A first aid kit.
- Jumper cables in case your car’s battery dies or you need to help someone else.
- Emergency flares to draw attention if you are in an accident or have to pull over for another reason.
- Paper towels to take care of any messes.
- Compass and road maps. Your GPS might have trouble in bad weather or you may need to conserve your car or phone battery.
Make Sure Your Car is Ready for Winter Weather
Before you set out on the road, go to a trusted mechanic to get a seasonal checkup for your car. AAA recommends the following checklist:
- Battery – Replace the battery if it is weak. Test the electrical system, making sure connections are tight and terminals and cable ends are free from corrosion.
- Belts and hoses – Inspect belts and hoses for wear and tear and any possible leaking or fraying.
- Windshield wipers – Make sure wiper blades are in good condition and clear the windshield with every swipe. Replace them if necessary. The washer fluid reservoir should be filled with a solution that includes anti-freezing components.
- Lights – Check that all lights and signals work and replace any burnt-out bulbs. Keep the lights clear of ice, snow and salt spray.
- Tires – The tires on your car should have sufficient tread, and preferably be winter or all-season tires. Check the tire pressure to make sure they are inflated to the proper level. Cold weather makes tires lose air pressure.
- Brakes – Your brakes should stop smoothly and consistently. If they don’t, replace them.
- Heating system – Test to make sure the defroster, heater and rear window defogger work properly. Don’t drive until you can see through all windows.
It’s always smart to drive cautiously and take your surroundings into account, especially in winter weather. Your speed should match road conditions, which may require driving slower than the posted speed limit. Make sure your car is clear of snow and ice for visibility. Increase following distances in bad weather and try to stay calm.
If you are involved in a car accident while out on the road this winter, you should consult with an experienced car accident attorney who can guide you through the legal process. Keep in mind that drivers are required to keep their vehicles under control and drive safely even in bad weather.