ICC Compliance Center
Stranded in a Vehicle During a Winter Storm

Living in the St. Louis Metro Area planning before heading out onto the highways is a good idea. With a population upwards of 2 million, there are always lots of vehicles on the roads. Add to that the number of those passing through on their way out west, and you can imagine some of the traffic snarls happening on a daily basis. If there should be any sort of inclement weather, the number of accidents multiply on an exponential basis. Given we just passed the first official day of winter, it seems appropriate to think about what to do if you get stranded in your car during a winter storm.

After researching this a bit, it was interesting where I found the best advice. The Weather Channel, and several insurance agencies seemed to provide the most logical ones. Many ideas center around concepts that make sense for being a responsible car owner.

What to do when stranded:

  • Have a survival kit in your car. Create one for the types of situations you could find yourself. It should include extra gloves, water, a flashlight, a blanket, a cell phone charger, and an ice scraper just to name a few items. 
  • Stay inside the vehicle with your seatbelt connected. By staying in place you avoid exposure to the elements, which can put you at risk for hypothermia, frostbite, and getting lost. Your seatbelt is important. Just because you are pulled over doesn’t mean you are out of the way of oncoming traffic.
  • Use a signaling device. This is as simple as hanging brightly colored cloth like a scarf to your antenna or even raising your hood. Roadside flares could also be used if they are a part of your survival kit.  
  • Call for help. Depending on cell service, battery life, and location calling for emergency assistance is a good idea. Using 911 is a valid option as well as phoning a friend. This is also where certain insurance benefits like free towing come in handy. 
  • Clear tailpipe. This sounds odd, but having snow and debris away from the exhaust will prevent a build up of carbon monoxide in the vehicle. This is especially important if it is still snowing, and before someone gets to you to help.
  • Keep moving. Granted there isn’t much space in some cars these days, you can still clap your hands, stomp your feet or wiggle in place. The object is to keep your blood flowing, and generating some heat.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. It may sound counter-intuitive but being dehydrated makes you colder or at least more likely to feel the cold. Use caution though. Melt snow before drinking it. Eating it will lower your body temperature, which is already at risk. Of course, the adage about not eating “yellow snow” also applies.
  • Start the engine periodically. Take into consideration how much gas you have, and if your car will start. If so, let it run long enough to generate some heat inside the car. 

No one ever wants to be stranded. If it happens in good weather, it is bad enough. The situation is only compounded when dangerous weather situations occur at the same time. By using these tips, and keeping your wits about you, hopefully you can make it through this dangerous situation.  Stay safe out there!

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