Winter Wellness: Don’t Let Safety Slip!

Jan. 2, 2019

Whether guarding against frostbite or cleaning snow off a car, be sure to think safe when the temperature plummets. 

Dress Safe

Dress for the weather! Gloves, a hat and layers are the best bet in extreme cold. Wear a good-quality lined coat. Two to three layers are recommended for cold weather, with three-plus layers (one insulating) and long underwear with pants for extreme cold. Waterproof boots are essential in snowy conditions—leave the sneakers and Uggs at home. 

Avoid cotton, which soaks up water and stays wet. Dress in water-wicking synthetics or non-itchy wool for your base layer. The middle layer should insulate and keep heat in, while the outer layer should repel wind, snow and rain.

To prevent hypothermia and frostbite, stay dry and out of the wind as much as possible. Keep moving when outdoors to warm your core and stay hydrated. Get inside at the first sign of hypothermia (uncontrolled shivering, confusion) or frostbite (skin turning white or bluish, prickling or stinging). 

Walk Safe

Walking safely in winter conditions means paying extra attention to what’s happening around you—sidewalk and road conditions, and the hazards created by vehicles trying to navigate difficult situations. Be extra vigilant about crossing at crosswalks and with the light, and never assume a driver sees you. Do not cross streets until you are sure it’s clear and you have sufficient time.  

Stick to shoveled surfaces and walk with shorter than normal steps. To avoid slipping, lean forward slightly and keep your center of gravity over your front leg. If you think this makes you look like a penguin, you’re right—it’s a trick used by our featherless friends. (We don’t recommend trying to balance an egg on your feet, though.)

Also, do we need to say it? EYES OFF THE PHONE. Seriously, it can wait until you’ve reached your destination (or at least until you’re not moving). Pedestrian hazards are compounded by bad weather—don’t add to the risk with distracted walking. 

Drive Safe

Being a safe driver in the winter starts even before you leave your parking space. Clean snow and ice off your hood, windows and roof before getting on the road. 

A video from the Weather Channel powerfully illustrates the dangers of not cleaning snow and ice off a vehicle. It’s the law in New Jersey and many other states—failure to do so can lead to significant fines, especially in cases of property damage.  

When you clear your car, don't forget to clean off all motion and distance sensors, as shown in in this video from Consumer Reports.  

Hit the defrost button and don’t get moving until you can see clearly in all directions. Turn on your headlights in adverse conditions: New Jersey requires the use of headlights when windshield wipers are in use or when encountering fog or smoke. 

Reduce your speed and following distance—especially on bridges and highway ramps.  

The approach of winter weather is a good time to assess the condition of your vehicle. Check your coolant and windshield washer fluid levels. Inspect tires for wear and proper inflation, and windows for cracks (they can expand when it’s cold outside and warm in the car). Replace worn wiper blades. 

Have a personal safety kit in your vehicle. This should include:
•    Ice scraper/brush
•    small shovel
•    jumper cables
•    lock de-icer
•    flashlight and new batteries
•    extra windshield wiper fluid
•    safety flares/warning device
•    water and non-perishable food (i.e., granola or protein bars)
•    paper towels or a cloth

If your vehicle does become disabled, pull off the road as far as possible and turn on emergency flashers. Remain with your vehicle until help arrives. If you cannot get the car out of an unsafe situation, proceed on foot to a location away from traffic; do not stand behind or next to your vehicle.