What if an emergency happens while you’re on the road? Before you leave, make sure your travel emergency plan is ready.
Before You Travel
Check road and weather conditions along your planned route. Every state’s transportation department has a web site for travel information. In Kentucky, it’s goky.ky.gov. Also check your weather site of choice not just for your destination’s forecast, but to get a sense of likely conditions along the way.
Catch up with vehicle maintenance. The best emergency is the one you avoid entirely. Check tire pressure and tread wear, fluid levels, and lights. Get that oil change or brake job you’ve been putting off.
Check your vehicle emergency kit. Make sure everything works and you know how to use it. Replace batteries and food that are past their expiration dates.
Stay fueled. No matter how safely you drive, weather and accidents can slow or halt your journey, leaving you idling on the highway (or in a ditch) for hours. Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid running out between gas stations.
Be easy to find. To supplement your normal family communications plan, tell someone where you are going and the route you will take. Describe your vehicle – make, model, color, and license plate number. Tell them when you expect to arrive at your destination and tell them you’ll call when you arrive.
If you get stuck or stranded on the road…
Stay with your vehicle. It provides shelter and is easier for rescuers to find.
If possible, call 911 on your cell phone. Provide your location, condition of everyone in the vehicle, and the problem you’re experiencing. Follow instructions: you may be told to stay where you are until help arrives. Stay on the line until you know who you have spoken with and what will happen next.
If you must leave the vehicle, write down your name, address, phone number, and destination, along with the current date and time. Place the piece of paper inside the front windshield for someone to find.
Shelter in Your Vehicle
Be visible. Tie a fluorescent flag (from your kit) on your antenna or hang it out the window. At night, keep your dome light on. Rescue crews can see a small glow at a distance. To reduce battery drain, use emergency flashers only if you hear approaching vehicles. If you’re with someone else, make sure at least one person is awake and keeping watch for help at all times.
Avoid overexertion. Shoveling snow or pushing your car takes a lot of effort. Don’t risk a heart attack or injury. That work can also make you hot and sweaty. Wet clothing loses insulation value, making you susceptible to hypothermia.
Keep your air fresh. It’s better to be cold and awake than comfortably warm and sleepy. Snow can plug your vehicle’s exhaust system and cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter your car. Only run the engine for 10 minutes an hour and make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow. Open a window slightly while running the engine. For more information on carbon monoxide poisoning, see our page on extreme cold.