Winter not finished with Nebraska yet

Monday, January 21, 2013

The major winter travel holidays are over, but any long-time Nebraskan can tell you a late winter, early spring blizzard is a thing to be feared if you're caught out on the road.

That same Nebraskan, if he or she is wise, will tell you it's a good idea to take an inventory of items in your vehicle before starting out on even a medium-length trip.

That's a good idea according to the State Farm insurance company and its surveyor, KRC Research, which found that more than 60 percent of drivers had some sort of "junk" in their trunk, ranging from odd clothes and shoes to used food or drink containers.

While 99 percent had at least one emergency supply in their vehicle, such as a spare tire or jumper cables, only 9 percent carried all the essential emergency roadside supplies.

Not only is it dangerous not to have a survival kit if you're stranded, it's wasteful to haul heavy, needless junk around in your car.

The best plan, of course, is to not get stranded at all -- keep an eye on the weather on the Internet, Weather Radio or commercial radio, or by calling the state travel information hotline at 511.

When you've got a spare day, make sure your vehicle is ready for the rest of the winter, with a good tune-up, good hoses and belts, battery, good tires, air, fuel and emission filters and your spare tire and jack.

Special winter driving advice includes never warming up your vehicle in a closed garage. Keep your gas tank at least half full to prevent gas line freeze-up. Make sure your exhaust pipe is not clogged with mud or snow. Don't use cruise control on icy roads, and allow more time for braking when visibility is poor.

Stay calm if you start to skid.

In addition to the just-in-case items you should always have in your vehicle, such as jumper cables, tire-changing tools, flashlight, and first aid kit, be sure to include these winter essentials: Small folding shovel, tow and tire chains, a basic tool kit, bag of road salt or cat litter, windshield wiper fluid, antifreeze, warning flares.

When you pack a survival kit, include a compass or GPS, ice scraper and brush, wooden matches, high-energy, non-perishable food, water or sports drinks, a cell phone charger, blankets and warm clothing.

If you do get stranded, pull off the highway if possible, turn on your hazard lights or light fares and hang a distress flag from an antenna or window.

Call 911 if you have a phone and describe your location as precisely as possible, and remain in your vehicle so help can find you.

Run your vehicle's engine and heater about 10 minutes each hour to keep warm, open a downwind window slightly for ventilation and clear snow from the exhaust pipe to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Exercise a little to maintain body heat, but avoid overexertion and sweating. Drink fluids to avoid dehydration, and conserve your vehicles battery by using lights, heat and radio sparingly.

At night, turn on an inside light when you run the engine so help can see you.

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