Taking unnecessary risks during winter storms can be harmful to your body and your vehicle.

There’s one simple way to avoid such injuries: Don’t go driving or walking on wintry precipitation.

“Don’t do it!” said Ryan Hardaway, director of the local Red Cross. “Staying home is the safest solution.”

Hardaway and other safety experts know that for some people, getting out may be unavoidable for any number of reasons.

“If you have to walk or drive, go slow and don’t slam on brakes or speed up too quickly while driving,” said Hardaway. “Driving in low gears assists in preventing the vehicle from going too fast.”

Scott Pettus, a public information officer for Tahlequah-Cherokee County Emergency Management, said motorists should never begin a journey without taking a few important steps.

“Have a full tank of fuel,” said Pettus. “[Also have] blankets, gloves, head coverings and/or additional clothing to protect exposed areas in the event you become stranded.”

Keep enough non-perishable food items, like crackers, peanut butter and water, in the vehicle for all who might be riding inside. Also keep flashlights and spare batteries, a fully charged cell phone and car charger, and a shovel, if possible.

“Contact friends or family members periodically along your route so they have reference point to send help should it become necessary,” said Pettus. “Allow additional driving time to your destination. Drive slowly and leave ample space between vehicles.”

Those who lose control of a vehicle shouldn’t quickly hit the brake, but instead release the accelerator pedal and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid, said Pettus.

And when walking on snow or ice, be sure to wear proper shoes or boots. Traction will be especially important for maintaining balance.

“Again, slow your pace with easy heel-to-toe steps, and make sure you have a secure foothold on the surface,” said Pettus. “Walking canes and walking sticks may provide some stability.”

Remember that ice can be hidden by layers of snow and sleet, or can look like just a wet spot on the ground. Salt can be helpful as both traction and a mechanism for melting snow and ice, while cat litter and sand can also provide extra traction.

Local resident Patti Gulager said she takes her four-wheel drive vehicle if she has to head out into the wintry weather.

“I try to stay away from the other vehicles when I get on the road,” said Gulager. “I will even stop and wait until they are out of sight before I continue on. I always have a blanket and a full tank of gas.”

Cave Springs School teacher Jim Wade knows how to handle icy roads.

“I drive a Chevy Cobalt,” said Wade. “When it comes to snow and ice, it goes where Jeeps fear to tread – assuming, of course, that Jeeps are afraid of my carport.”

Learn more

Other winter-weather tips from the Oklahoma Red Cross:

• Go to a designated public shelter if your home loses power or heat during periods of extreme cold.

• Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog.

• Before tackling strenuous tasks in cold temperatures, consider your physical condition, the weather factors and the nature of the task.

• Protect yourself from frostbite and hypothermia by wearing warm, loose-fitting, lightweight clothing in several layers. Stay indoors, if possible.

• Help people who require special assistance such as elderly people living alone, children and people with disabilities.

• Bring pets indoors.

• Never use a generator, grill, camp stove or other gasoline, propane, natural gas or charcoal burning devices inside a home, garage, basement, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area.


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