Prepare for winter with tips and kits for holiday commute

Dec. 10, 2012

Alexander Nedd
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Every winter, people hear staggering statistics about people who aren’t prepared for harsh weather. But it’s easy to avoid becoming a statistic and calling a tow truck to come haul your car out of a ditch.

According to AAA, more than 90 million people are expected to travel to visit loved ones this holiday season. With winter approaching in Colorado, that can mean anything, and drivers can be more safe with a few winter tips.

In the U.S., a car accident takes place every 10 seconds. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 450,000 injury crashes occur annually in adverse weather conditions or on slick pavement.

Local authorities agree that the best advice to driving out in winter conditions is to not drive out at all. Sometimes, that isn’t an option.

When travel is expected in harsh conditions, one can stay ahead of the storm by having a winter kit. Winter kits can be found in most automotive specialty stores and are essential for Colorado travel.

Each pre-assembled kit can be different, but there are items every kit should have. For the snowy months ahead, kits should include all of the following items:

  •   Flashlight with extra batteries
  •   Matches in waterproof case (an empty pill bottle works well as a match case)
  •   Compass
  •   Ice scraper
  •   Non-perishable, high-energy dry foods, such as protein bars, nuts and hard candy
  •   First-aid kit
  •   Inflated spare
  •   Salt or cat litter (for creating stability on an icy road)
  •   Flares (easy to find in most department stores)
  •   Jumper cables
  •   Tire chains

Winterizing your car is only half the battle, though. Unfortunately, you have no control over who or what is on the road when you are driving. This makes matters worse during non-ideal weather conditions.

Here are some safe driving guidelines to help keep you and your car moving forward. (Remember, these are only tips. Should you not feel comfortable driving in snow, you should stay at home.)

Slow down.Speed limits are meant for ideal traffic conditions. Speeding or following the speed limit during a snow storm can prove deadly to you and your vehicle.

Have an escape route.Leave yourself room should the unexpected happen. Never follow too closely.

Stay off the brakes. Slamming on brakes can force your car out of your control. Instead, ease off the accelerator and gently tap on the brakes.

Steer into the skid.If your rear wheels start to skid, steer your car in the direction of skid. For example, if the car skids to the left, turn the steering wheel to the left. This is counterintuitive, but will keep your vehicle from spinning out of control.

Go into neutral.If your front wheels skid, take your foot off gas and shift to neutral while turning the car in the direction you want to go.

Shovel, not spin, your way out.Should you get stuck, don’t spin your tires, as this pushes you further into the snow. Rather, clear the snow away from tires with a shovel and turn them back and forth while pushing the car. Litter or gravel can be used as traction as well.

     Other ways to prepare for winter include downloading weather and local news media apps that update with current weather predictions.

UCCS offers text alerts warning of weather and up-to-date traffic conditions that can help prevent students from becoming stranded. Use these to your advantage and register for text alerts by visiting

This winter break, be safe. Get prepared, drive safely and be smart.