Preparing for the unexpected when driving is always a challenge even for the experienced motorist, more so when inclement winter weather becomes a factor. Driving is one important indicator to older Americans who wish to remain independent.
“In our fast-paced, modern world, driving is not only a privilege, it’s a necessity for millions of Americans, especially seniors who rely on their vehicles to help keep them independent,” Howard Hayes of NAVTEQ stated in an article posted by KFXL, a Nebraska affiliate of the Fox Network. “Many seniors don’t have the luxury of staying home when the weather turns bad. But with a few safety measures and a little extra care, seniors can stay safe on the roads throughout the winter.”
Common-sense maintenance is imperative. This includes making certain emergency supplies are available in each vehicle — not in the trunk, which can freeze! This includes warm blankets, bottled water, handy snacks such as granola bars or nuts, and road flares.
An absolutely essential item is a cellular phone. This allows you to check in with family periodically as you complete your errands in the winter weather as well as to contact emergency services that might need to know about your predicament, including state or local law enforcement, automotive insurance provider, or towing company.
In addition to ensuring your car is ready for winter, seniors planning to get behind the wheel in the months ahead need to be certain they are healthy and prepared for driving in snow and ice. In addition to regular vision checkups, remember to avoid driving if you are tired, ill, or recently started taking a new prescription medication.
Among the myriad problems caused or aggravated by low temperatures and wind are body and skin temperatures, according to the North Dakota State University Extension Service, Fargo. Exposed skin can freeze rapidly, and this becomes a real possibility if you find yourself stranded on the roadside.
Wind amplifies the cold by significantly decreasing skin temperature. If the temperature is 30˚F with a 15-mile-per-hour breeze, for example, any exposed skin registers an effective temperature of 19˚F. Thus, if the exterior temperature reaches minus 10˚F and there is a 30-mph wind, the effective temperature on bare flesh will be 39˚F below zero.
The “Winter Survival Kit,” a free smartphone application from the North Dakota State University Extension Service, Fargo, is designed to help stranded motorists by offering them important information in the event they have to stop by the side of the road during a snowstorm.
With it, a motorist can determine their current geographic location; make calls to 911 and family; calculate how long the engine can be run to keep the user warm with the fuel in the tank; designate emergency contacts; and store policy numbers and contacts for insurance or roadside assistance.
The “Winter Survival Kit” also issues alerts to users every 30 minutes, reminding them to periodically turn off the engine and to check the vehicle’s exhaust pipe for snow buildup, helping them avoid deadly carbon monoxide poisoning.
Additional information provided within the application offers advice on preparing a physical winter survival kit, preparing a vehicle for winter driving, and how to remain safe if stranded in a storm or stuck in snow.
The application was developed by Myriad Devices, founded by students and faculty in the NDSU Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and College of Business.