Vehicle Safety and Preparedness Tips


Road Trip photoGoing on a trip?

Wind and winter storms, flooding, landslides and downed power lines can create hazards on our roads. The National Weather Service, for example, states that about 70 percent of injuries during winter storms result from vehicle accidents, and about 25 percent of injuries result from being caught out in the storm. 


If you are planning a road trip or commute to work each day...


Are You Prepared?


Vehicle Preparedness and Safety

Seasonal Travel Tips:    Winter Travel     Flooding     Windstorms     Landslides


Vehicle Preparedness and Safety


There are two types of preparedness kits you should have in your car at all times - a vehicle safety kit and a personal survival kit. Below are suggested items to include in each kit. Items should be stored in airtight plastic bags inside storage containers.  


Vehicle Safety Kit graphic
Vehicle Safety Kit
  • ABC-type fire extinguisher
  • Battery-operated radio/extra batteries
  • Cat litter/sand for traction on ice/snow
  • Chains
  • Compass
  • Flashlight/extra batteries
  • Ice scraper
  • Jumper cables
  • Utility knife
  • Latex gloves (at least 2 pair)
  • Light sticks
  • Map of area
  • Matches in waterproof container
  • Plastic shelter types
  • Plastic storage bags
  • Road flares
  • Shovel


Personal Survival Kit graphic

Personal Survival Kit
  • Blankets - Mylar and other
  • Food - Choose whole grain cereals, nuts, energy bars and food with high liquid content; avoid food that makes you thirsty. Remember a portable can opener if you pack canned food.
  • Water - 1 gallon per person, for 24-hour period. Write date on all food / water, replace every 6 months.
  • Warm clothes - Gloves, hat, sturdy shoes, jacket, rain gear, etc.
  • Cold weather clothes - Boots, winter gloves, wool socks, clothing that can be layered.
  • First aid kit / special medications
  • Cash, coins for phones
  • Cell phone
  • Whistle
  • Games / books for kids
  • Pet supplies
  • Toilet paper / towelettes
  • Feminine / personal hygiene items
  • Infant diapers and wipes
  • Infant formula
  • Special diet foods

Winter Travel Tips


Winter Driving PhotoWinter conditions call for different driving tactics. Remember - Ice and Snow, Take it Slow - slower speed, slower acceleration, slower steering, and slower braking. Give yourself extra time to reach your destination safely. It is not worth putting yourself and others in a dangerous situation just to save time. If you find yourself stranded, be safe and stay in your car. Turn on your flashers, call for help, and wait until it arrives. Listen to your portable radio for emergency messages.


 IMPORTANT: Keep your vehicle full of gas - remember a 1/2 tank is considered empty.


Winterize your vehicle:

  • Check the ignition, fuel, exhaust, and cooling systems.
  • Check fluid levels - oil, antifreeze, windshield washer, etc.
  • Check belts, brakes, tire pressure and tread (purchase snow tires if needed).
  • Replace non-working lights, keep them clean.
  • Replace worn wiper blades.

Winter driving tips:

Remember:  Ice and Snow, Take it Slow – slower speed, slower acceleration, slower steering, and slower braking. 

  • Drive with your headlights on.
  • Keep your windows free of fog and grime.
  • Drive for conditions. Do not get overconfident with four-wheel drive. It will not help you stop any faster.
  • Winter road conditions often result in longer stopping distances. Drivers should allow additional room between their vehicles and others. 
  • Slow down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady spots. These areas have the potential of developing black ice and can make driving hazardous. 
  • Avoid abrupt actions while steering, braking or accelerating to lessen the chances of losing control of the vehicle.
  • Look farther ahead in traffic. Actions by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra time to react.
  • Trucks take longer to stop. Do not cut in front of them.
  • Avoid using cruise control or overdrive. Do not let your car make a bad decision for you.
  • Stopping on snow and ice without skidding requires extra time and distance. If you have anti-lock brakes, press the pedal down firmly and hold it. If you do not have anti-lock brakes, gently pump the pedal. Either way, give yourself plenty of room to stop.
  • Make sure someone knows your travel plans. If possible, stay on main roads.
  • If you must stop, remain inside the vehicle. Use a bright distress flag or your hazard lights to draw attention to your vehicle.
  • If trapped in a snow storm, clear your tail pipe and run your engine and heater for 10 minutes every hour. Open your window slightly.
  • During night hours, keep the dome light on in the cars so rescue crews and see you.



During flooding, rivers and streams can rise very quickly. It can occur nearly anywhere and at any time as a result of ice jams on rivers, spring snow melt, days of moderate rain, or from a single very heavy downpour. Most flood-related deaths occur in automobiles. Sadly, some of these fatalities were avoidable. In many cases, if the driver had turned around instead of driving onto a flooded roadway, one or more lives would have been spared. Photo of Flooded Roadway

  • During threatening weather listen to your vehicle radio for weather advisories and information from local authorities regarding road closures, evacuation measures, and temporary shelters.  
  • If you travel in a flood-prone area, be prepared to move quickly to higher ground at the first sign of flooding.
  • When camping near a mountain stream or river, locate a safe route to higher ground when you first set up camp.  

The deadly force of flood water -

  • Moving flood water contains a deadly amount of force. For each foot of flood water, 1500 pounds of an automobiles’ weight is displaced. This means that two feet of water will send most automobiles floating helplessly downstream.
  • Do not drive through standing water or around barricades - water depth and underlying road conditions are very difficult to estimate, especially at night.
  • If your vehicle stalls, abandon it and move to higher ground immediately.
  • Escaping from a vehicle once flood waters have carried it away is nearly impossible.
  • When vehicles are captured in deep water, water pressure on the outside of the vehicle prevents occupants from opening doors.
  • Even if a person were able to get out of the vehicle, the current and undertow of flood waters would likely be too strong to swim to safety.




Downed Power Line PhotoWindstorms create havoc for travelers as the wind often scatters tree limbs, branches, and fallen trees. Highways may also be blocked by downed power lines.

If you are driving:

- Pull off the road, stop away from trees.
- Walk into a safe building, if possible.
- Avoid overpasses, power lines, and other hazards.


If a power line touches your car:

  • If you are in a car when a power line falls on it, STAY IN THE CAR.
  • Warn other people to stay away. Ask them to call 911 and the local electric utility for help.
  • Stay there until rescue workers arrive. You are safer inside the car because the rubber tires help prevent electricity from going to the ground.
  • If you must leave the car because of fire or other danger, DO NOT STEP OUT of the car. If you touch the car and the ground at the same time, you will be shocked. Instead, JUMP away from the car so no part of you touches the car and the ground at the same time. Land with your feet together, and shuffle away keeping both feet on the ground.

Note: Once you jump from a car with a power line on it, the danger may not be over. Electricity can spread out through the ground in a circle from any downed line. The voltage drops as you move away from the point of contact. If one part of your body touches a high-voltage zone while another part of your body touches a low-voltage zone, you will become a conductor for electricity. This is why you should shuffle away from the line, keeping your feet close together.

  • Do not try to help someone else from the car while you are standing on the ground. If you do, you will become a path for electricity and could be hurt or killed!

(Information provided by Puget Sound Energy)




Landslide on road photoLandslides can occur in Washington State especially during the wet winter period. Continual moderate and heavy rainfall saturates the land and causes hillsides to collapse, many times covering roadways. It is important for you to be aware of your environment and the terrain on either side of the road and watch for changing conditions.

If you come upon a landslide:

  • Do not drive around barricades.
  • Do not attempt to drive through or around a mudslide.
  • Listen to your radio for highway advisory reports; they have detailed information and are frequently updated. 
  • Some highways have warning signs to alert you of landslide activity. Changeable message signs may describe conditions and restrictions.
  • Use your cell phone, call 5-1-1 to receive information on road closures and traffic conditions. 

If you are caught in a landslide:

  • Stay in your vehicle, since it is very dangerous outside.
  • Use your cell phone to call for assistance.
  • Turn on your safety lights (flashers).
  • Turn off your engine, carbon monoxide can kill you. 
  • Do not smoke.
  • Stay warm, put on additional clothing as needed.

Information courtesy of WSDOT, WSP, PSE, and EMD:

- Washington Department of Transportation
- Washington State Patrol
- Washington Emergency Management Division
- Puget Sound Energy


Additional Preparedness Information:

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