Slippery Roads and Icy Bridges? Stay on Track

By Shilpika Das, Staff Writer,

Thursday, December 06, 2007 - With millions of people hitting the road for holiday travel in the coming weeks, the American Red Cross urges families and individuals to take precautions against the deceptive dangers of wintry weather.

Winter storms can be 'deceptive killers' since the majority of winter-related deaths are caused by events related to the heavy snowfall, high winds, and freezing rain that often accompanies them. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, almost 70 percent of winter deaths related to snow and ice take place in vehicles.

"The American Red Cross recommends that people prepare for disasters and other emergencies wherever they spend a lot of time, and for many of us that means our vehicles ," says Darlene Sparks Washington, director for preparedness at the American Red Cross. "As cold winter weather approaches, it's even more important that we all take simple steps to help keep ourselves and our loved ones safer while on the road," says Washington.

The American Red Cross offers the following tips to help people prepare for the unexpected when traveling.

Winter-proof your vehicle

  • Get your vehicle checked by a mechanic and pay attention to the battery, tire pressure, heater, defroster, wiper blades and washer fluid.
  • Carry a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle at all times.
  • Make sure you include winter items like shovel, windshield scraper, blankets and warm clothing, flares, jumper cables, and sand or cat litter for traction.
  • Ensure that you have a full tank of gas to avoid ice build-up in the fuel tank and fuel lines.

Before you hit the roads

  • Let your family or friends know your destination, your primary and alternate routes, and when you expect to arrive. If your vehicle gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.
  • Pay attention to the weather forecast. Your local TV and radio stations can provide updated storm information that can help you avoid treacherous weather.
  • Motorists should also be cautious about animals on the highway. Stay alert for deer-crossing signs.

If you are stranded

  • Stranded drivers should stay with the vehicle and not try to walk to safety. You can quickly become disoriented in wind-driven snow and run the risk of developing hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Exercise your arms and legs to maintain body heat.
  • Change out of wet clothing, using dry replacements from your supplies kit to prevent hypothermia.
  • Use the heater for 10 minutes every hour and leave the overhead light on when the engine is running so you can be seen.
  • Keep the exhaust pipe clear so fumes won't back up in the vehicle
  • Make it easier for rescuers to find you by tying a brightly colored cloth to the antenna
  • After the snow has subsided, raise the hood to indicate you need help.

For additional winter safety tips and information on building disaster supplies kits, visit

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.