Staying Safe on Montana Roads
If you’re lucky enough to live in Montana, you know, or will soon enough, that the fall season can be very short-lived. Fall is truly one of the most beautiful times here in Montana but you have to take in all the changing of colors, crisp fall air, pumpkin carving, and other fall festivities quite quickly or you may be carving pumpkins in the snow.
With the winter snow and temperatures quickly dropping in a matter of only one night we must be prepared out on the roads. Have you ever been driving through a blizzard or in below freezing temperatures? Unpredictable weather means there is a higher chance of getting stuck in the snow, sliding off the road, an emergency road closure, or ultimately not being able to make it to where you are headed, and it is important to be prepared! But don’t forget, if you do get stuck make sure that you do not panic. Creating an emergency supply kit for your car is essential to keep you self-sufficient and able to handle many situations. We strongly recommend having some sort of crate or basket to keep your emergency kit in! This will keep it neat and organized while driving around. Anything from a plastic box with a lid, to a wood crate or a wicker basket will help to keep your emergency kit intact during your daily travels. Here are 13 things America’s PrepareAthon! recommends you keep in your car at all times during these winter months.
#1 – A CELL PHONE CHARGER
This is extremely important, especially if you are within range of service towers and have the capability of contacting help. Consider either a fully charged portable battery pack or a charger that plugs directly into your car.A portable charging pack will allow you to charge your phone, even if your is not running.
This one seems pretty self-explanatory, but if you happen to endure some sort of minor physical injury while stuck in the snow, a first aid kit can come in extremely handy. Just make sure that you keep it stocked at all times.
This one can be extremely beneficial not just for you, but potentially others out on the road. Here in Montana the winter can be brutal, especially when we get those high winds coming through and the temperatures drop below zero. This type of weather can make it hard for some cars to get started, especially when they are sitting outside for long periods of time. If you happen to be alone and there is no one else there to help jump your car, we recommend having a portable jump starter, especially if you travel back roads by yourself often.
#4 – TIRE CHAINS OR SNOW TIRES
Snow tires are crucial! Even all-season tires will work better than most. Tire chains are best used when there is a layer of snow or ice on the road. If the roads are bare, using chains can cause damage to both your tires and the road itself. It may be a little late this season, but make sure that before the first snowfall, you check the condition of your tires. Bald or summer tires will make it extremely difficult to get anywhere in Montana during the winter months.
If you somehow end up way off the road in the dark, and other traffic cannot see you from the road, and it is dark out, these flares can help draw attention to you and your vehicle and may end up saving your life. Road flares are also important to have in your emergency kit if you are just off the side of the road in the dark to alert oncoming traffic to keep a distance.
#6 – FULL TANK OF GAS
Make sure that you have a full tank of gas as often as possible. Not only for the extra weight, but if you have to stop on the side of the road, a full tank of gas will provide you with the ability to keep the car and heat running for much longer than if you only had half a tank to start. If your car is stuck in the snow, make sure your exhaust pipe is clear of snow and that you limit your idle time to just a few minutes at a time. This eliminates dangers associated with carbon monoxide poisoning.
#7 – BAG OF SAND OR CAT LITTER
A bag of sand or cat litter can be used for at least two purposes. If you happen to slide off of the road and you need traction, sprinkle some cat litter or sand in front (or back, if you plan on backing out) of your tires to gain traction. In addition to helping gain traction on the road, if you have a front heavy vehicle, it helps to put large bags of sand/cat litter in the trunk of your car or bed of your truck.
These three things are key to have in your vehicle, even if you are in town running errands. An ice scraper and snow brush are essential to get the snow and ice off of your car, keeping your views unobstructed as you drive. A shovel can come in handy if you are stuck and need to shovel a path for yourself or your vehicle.
#9 – TOW ROPE
Whether it is you or someone else on the road, a tow rope can help make things a little easier. Tow ropes are handy to pull someone else out of the ditch, or if someone stops to help you, this can save a call for a tow truck.
A blanket (or maybe two) is something easy to throw in your car and can potentially save your life in a cold and dangerous situation. If your car dies, you will need something to keep you warm, which leads us to the next few items you should have in your emergency car kit: boots, mittens, and warm clothes.
#11 – BOOTS, MITTENS, WARM CLOTHES
An extra set of warm clothes is extremely important to keep in your car during the winter months. If you are able to walk to get help, these items will be key in making sure that you stay warm on your trek. If you have to wait for help , these items will keep you warm while you wait.
If it’s dark out, the only way to get a passerby’s attention may be with a bright flashlight. If you have a smartphone, you have a built-in bright flashlight but we recommend getting a large LED flashlight that has a longer light distance. This can also be helpful in getting other cars attention on the road when it is dark, even if it solely prevents them from hitting your car.
#13 – WATER AND SNACKS
If you are stuck anywhere from a few hours to even longer, food and water is key. We recommend a few bottles of water, and non-perishable snacks. Protein bars are great to have during these times as they have a high proportion of protein to carbohydrates/fats, keeping you full for longer.
Now that winter is in full swing (at least here in Montana), we strongly suggest creating an emergency car kit for you, your kids, your parents, etc. Be prepared, and stay safe!
Make sure you check your local auto parts store to find a majority of these items and click the photos for direct links!
If you are ever in an emergency situation where medical attention is needed and you have cell phone service, call 911.