“Over the river and through the wood, to Grandmother’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow.” And so goes the old song about holiday travel to visit the relatives. Now I’ll admit I have never actually travelled by sleigh to visit relatives, but plenty of us hit the road during winter months to spend the holidays with loved ones. Winter travel requires some extra planning to make your trip a safe one.
First, factor in a little extra time for your journey. Safe driving in nasty weather requires slowing down. In fact, snowy and icy roads require a whole different skill set. If your route takes you over any mountain passes, the possibility of snow and icy roads may affect your trip. Making sure your car is ready for the trip is just smart planning. Are your tires up for the trip? Do you have a set of tire chains that actually fit your car? Do you know how to install your chains? Studded tires are always an option, although here on the South Coast of Oregon few motorists make that investment as we rarely have a need for them. More than one motorist has been stranded along the interstate for several hours because of nasty weather. Running out of gas is unacceptable, likewise being without a couple of blankets in the trunk or some snacks for the kids.
So when you get ready to head out, go to your state’s highway department website and check their webcams. For those of us in Oregon it’s www.tripcheck.com. Most areas of the state have a webcam set up monitoring the road conditions. Accompanying the video display is a list of up-to-the-minute weather conditions listing the temperature, wind information and precipitation. The wise traveler will adjust his travel plans according to what he learns about the weather conditions enroute. Then let someone know when you’re leaving, the route you plan to take and then notify them when you arrive. Anyone who has ever flown an airplane has had to either cancel a trip or change his flight plans because of weather. There is an old saying, “there are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots!” The same may be true for the winter traveler. Making changes in your road trip shows wisdom and maturity of thought for the safe consideration of your loved ones.
Before you head out, grab your “go” bag, top off your gas tank and your coffee thermos. A few food items can’t hurt, along with your tire chains, tow strap, jumper cables (for someone else, you understand) and maybe one of those folding shovels. Be sure to get an early start, because those slick roads demand slower speeds, and a willingness to abort the mission if it gets a little too risky out there. This trip isn’t worth anyone getting injured just because your bone-headed macho-man attitude wasn’t about to be pushed around by some little ol’ snow storm. Be a real hero to your family and make the hard decision if you need to. Ultimately being prepared will bring a whole element of safety to your journey.
“Over the river and through the wood, now Grandmother’s cap I spy. Hurrah for the fun. Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!”
As always, send your comments, questions and winter driving stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is the Postmaster in Bandon, Oregon, and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us.”