As the polar vortex sweeps over Pennsylvania, residents are experiencing icy conditions that are below the state’s average temperature for this time of year. Here are preparations you should make to protect yourself and others while driving on roads in frigid polar vortex conditions.
Keeping a set of tire chains with you will ensure that you have as much traction as possible if the roads are iced over. Even if crews are actively maintaining road conditions, polar vortex conditions can cause ice to quickly reform. Being stuck in cold weather is dangerous, so drivers should be prepared for the elements. Carry at least two flares for visibility if your car breaks down.
Gear that could help make your vehicle move again is also a must—shovels, jumper cables, a tool kit, and matches could make the difference between hours or moments stuck in the cold. Finally, plan for being stuck. Store flashlights, food, and warm clothes just in case you find yourself waiting too long for assistance.
Check your tire tread by sticking a penny with Abraham Lincoln’s head facing downward. The tread should cover up the entire head to indicate proper traction. Clear all ice from your windows and do not drive with snow accumulated on your roof as it could come loose and block your view while driving. Finally, make sure your phone is always with you and fully charged.
When on the roads during the polar vortex, the best cautionary step to take is to drive slowly. Allow plenty of space to stop and do no accelerate too quickly. Do not drive on areas of the road that look clear as black ice is hard to see. Instead, drive on parts of the road covered with salt or sand. If you need to go up a hill, make sure you will not need to stop before reaching the top and descend with caution in a lower gear. If you begin to skid on ice, steer your car in the direction that you want it to go and do not use your brakes too much.
Do not leave your car if you are stuck in cold weather unless your destination is nearby and visible. Instead, stay near your car and turn it on periodically to stay warm. However, be sure that nothing is covering your car’s exhaust pipes while it is on. Staying in your car will keep you warmer and help ensure that you are not directly struck by any cars that have lost control on the road. Use your emergency flares and place them on both sides of your car for maximum visibility.