MORGAN — With holiday travel in full swing, it’s important to prepare both loved ones and self for winter travel.
Think of everything that can go wrong, then prepare for it, said Rolayne Fairclough, a AAA spokeswoman in Salt Lake City. And, if things do go wrong, don’t leave the car.
“They can find your automobile far easier than they can find you,” she said.
Preparing for every scenario means one risks becoming like the White Knight in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” who equipped his horse with spiked anklets in case of shark bites.
What traveling motorists need depends on where they are going. Someone who risks getting stranded on a major highway between towns needs a cellphone, a warm blanket and patience. A longer road trip means all that, plus nonperishable food and water.
A trip to a backwoods cabin on an unplowed, deserted road means packing like a survivalist: insulated bags of medicine that get rotated out every month, and necessities such as toilet paper.
“A friend of mine in Wyoming, her father always told her to keep a candle in the car and a jar to put it in,“ Fairclough said. “A candle can keep you warm and give you a little light.”
Since the candle may not be enough, Fairclough said a stranded driver can turn on the car heater and run it for a bit as long as the tailpipe is free of snow. Crack the windows just in case, and be sure to have enough gas.
“One of the things I have learned is never let the car get below half a tank,” Fairclough said. “Give yourself some wiggle room. And gasoline has sand in it, so if you let your tank get low, it sucks that sand up and it decreases the life of your fuel pump.”
A cautious highway traveler may need reflective orange safety triangles or road flares. Although friends and family may not be immediately grateful, some recommend these as Christmas presents for those who are not easily gifted. Fairclough recommends AAA emergency roadside service as an even better present.
Getting stuck can happen anywhere, including a driveway or a parking lot. Fairclough recommends keeping a small shovel available and using car floor mats or kitty litter for enough traction to ease out of the situation.
On a more extreme level, anyone who is stranded in town by weather and cannot find a hotel or a rest stop should find a safe place to park, such as a 24-hour service station, she said.
AAA now has training tips on YouTube about how to drive in snow, Fairclough said.
Dwayne Baird, Utah Department of Public Safety spokesman, recommends drivers check the weather forecast, check the route and plan ahead.
A driver can see road conditions by checking the cameras along the highways at www.udot.utah.gov/main and scrolling down the main page, he said. Drivers can also check road conditions by calling 511 or 866-511-8824.
“If you’re stuck, call 911,” he said. “Getting stuck is an emergency call.”
Many bridges are now equipped with automatic sprayers that put out salt water to keep them from icing up, Baird said.
Baird, too, reminded drivers to stay with the vehicle.
“You might have another vehicle crash into you, but it’s safer than going out on the ice and getting struck by another vehicle that can’t stop,” he said.
Probably the most important thing is to have a cellphone, said Randy Hammack, Morgan County Sheriff’s deputy. Even those are not always dependable; there are dead zones around East Canyon and Lost Creek reservoirs, for example, and even small places in Mountain Green.
If something happens at night, pull off the road as much as possible and turn on the flashers, he said.
“People in this area who travel through here are pretty good,” Hammack said. “They call us and say, ‘There’s someone by the side of the road.’ They don’t sit by the side of the road for very long.”