Survival Tips for a Winter Breakdown: Get Out the Map

December 17, 2010

Toyota Prius in the snow

Toyota Prius in the snow

 Going on a road trip to visit relatives during the winter months, especially around Christmas, is something that many families plan to do this year. In fact, the AAA says that 90 percent of Americans will travel this holiday season – and most of them will be driving.

The trip could be trouble, as soon as the weather turns foul. Snowy conditions that quickly turn treacherous. Roads that go from picture-perfect winter wonderlands to glare ice or impassable snowdrifts. Plummeting temperatures. No cell phone coverage. No blankets in the car or other protective gear.


Sounds like a recipe for disaster – and it is. Take heed and be prepared by knowing where you're going--and making sure others know, too:

File a driving plan. But too many families pack up and take off without letting others know their route of travel, when they’re leaving, and when they expect to arrive. That’s a mistake. If your vehicle is stranded, having others know your travel plans gives searchers at least some place to start looking for you. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Just give one or two friends or other family members your destination, a phone number there, when you’ll arrive and when you plan to head home.

Let them know when you arrive. Make a point to say you’ll call someone when you get there – and do it, so they don’t worry. This is something you’d do if your kids were on the road, and it’s an equally good practice when you’ve got the whole family in tow.

Take and use maps. Of course, traffic and other situations affecting roads (closures due to everything from a Presidential motorcade to police involved in a high-speed pursuit) can affect your travel route. Or, maybe you encounter a road that’s impassable due to mudslide, rockslide or snow.

Don't rely only on GPS. That’s asking for trouble. Sure, GPS is a great tool – but it’s not invincible. GPS only sees the road – and possibly the shortest route – but it’s not able to see the road and weather conditions. Always use a map in combination with GPS.

Choose a familiar path. If you’ve never traveled a particular road before and it’s during the winter, take a more familiar route that’s well traveled, well-plowed, and otherwise accessible to food and shelter – or stay home.

Don’t be a techno that relies solely on gadgets. Good road maps are inexpensive and readily available – and can save you from making a costly, and potentially, tragic mistake in navigation.

We’re not done yet. Check in tomorrow for more Family Car Guide Survival Tips for a Winter Breakdown.

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