CHELMSFORD — Chief James Spinney and the Chelmsford Police Department would like to provide cold weather safety and winter driving tips to residents as temperatures continue to drop.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cold weather induced illnesses such as frostbite can occur even in temperatures above 40°F if a person becomes chilled by rain or sweat, or is submersed in cold water. Additionally, 116,800 people are injured in cold weather driving situations, such as on icy or snowy roads, every year according to the Federal Highway Administration.
“Though it’s important to keep a stockpile of items you could need should your car break down year round, it’s even more important during the winter and colder months,” Chief Spinney said. “Items like a shovel, flashlight, blanket, cell phone charger and jumper cables can be lifesavers in cold weather.”
The Chelmsford Department wishes to share the following tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to help keep residents safe while driving this winter:
- Check the weather before you leave. Assess the road conditions and traffic.
- Always remain vigilant while driving.
- Drive slowly in the winter– it takes longer to slow your vehicle on an icy, wet or snowy surface.
- Allocate extra time for travel during the winter to compensate for driving more slowly. Do not rush or put yourself in a situation where you feel pressured to rush or speed.
- Either drive behind a snow plow or use caution whenever passing them. Never crowd a snow plow, and do not drive next to them other than for passing. Snow plows are slow, make wide turns, frequently stop, overlap lanes and exit the road often.
- Stock your vehicle with the supplies you need to drive safely and stay warm in an emergency during the winter, including:
- Snow shovel
- Broom/ice scraper
- Sand or kitty litter, to be used in case your vehicle becomes stuck in snow.
- Jumper cables
- Warning devices (i.e. flares, emergency markers)
- Blankets for warmth. Chelmsford Police also encourage residents to keep extra hats, mittens, scarves, socks and other warm clothing items in their car, should their vehicle break down
- Cell phone charger
- Consider keeping a stock of any medicine you or a passenger relies on when going on a longer trip or driving in a rural area
- In the event your car breaks down or stalls in the winter:
- Stay with your vehicle.
- Do not overexert yourself.
- Place bright markers on the antenna or windows.
- Keep the interior dome light turned on.
- Do not run your car for long periods of time while the windows are rolled up or in an enclosed space– this is a carbon monoxide hazard. If you have to keep your vehicle running to stay warm, be sure to clear snow away from the exhaust pipe and run the vehicle only as long as needed to stay warm.
- Always wear your seatbelt, and make sure your passengers do too.
- Review the directions to your destination before leaving, even if you have a GPS system.
- Make sure your vehicle is fully stocked with “winter” windshield wiper fluid with de-icer. Check this regularly– this fluid can be depleted significantly by even one snowstorm.
- Make sure your defrosters and windshield wipers work and replace the blades if they have become worn.
- Cold temperatures can cause the inflation pressure in your tires to drop. Check the inflation pressure of your tires and make sure they meet the manufacturer’s recommended inflation pressure. It is recommended that you check your tires once monthly regardless of the season, and tires that have uneven wear or insufficient tread should be replaced. Residents are also reminded to check their spare tire.
- If you’re going to use snow tires, have them installed before the first snowfall.
- Make sure you have enough coolant in your vehicle and that the coolant meets the specifications of the manufacturer.
- Minimize the drain on the battery of electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. If your vehicle has a thermal heating pack for the battery, whenever the vehicle is not being used plug it in. Before you unplug, start your vehicle and preheat the inside.
- Maintain your vehicle. Have your vehicle tuned-up by a mechanic and watch out for any recalls on your vehicle. Be sure to have your mechanic check your battery, charging system and belts, and make any needed repairs or replacements.
- Make sure your headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and interior lights are all in working order. Also check your trailer brake lights and turn signals.
For more winter driving tips from the NHTSA, click here.
The Chelmsford Police Department also wishes to share the following tips from the CDC to help keep residents safe in cold weather situations and conditions.
- When going outdoors, adults and children should wear:
- A hat
- Scarf or knit mask to cover face and mouth
- Long sleeves that are snug at the wrist
- Mittens (they are warmer than gloves)
- Water-resistant coat and boots
- Residents are also reminded to layer their clothing strategically:
- When choosing an inner layer, wear fabrics that will hold more body heat and do not absorb moisture. Wool, silk, or polypropylene will hold more body heat than cotton.
- Wear a layer of clothing for insulation. An insulation layer will help you retain heat by trapping air close to your body. Natural fibers, like wool, goose down, or a fleece work best.
- Select your outer later carefully. The outermost layer helps protect you from wind, rain, and snow. It should be tightly woven, and preferably water and wind resistant, to reduce loss of body heat.
- Remember to try to stay dry while outdoors—wet clothing chills the body quickly.
- Remember that excess sweating will cause your body to lose more heat, so remove extra layers of clothing whenever you feel too warm.
- Avoid getting gasoline or alcohol on your skin while de-icing and fueling your car or using a snow blower. Getting these materials on your skin will cause your body to lose a lot more heat.
- Do not ignore shivering—it’s an important first sign that your body is losing heat. Constant shivering is a sign that it is time to go inside.
For any other questions on cold weather safety please visit CDC.gov.
The men and women of the Chelmsford Police Department wish a safe winter season for everyone!