Death from exposure to the cold can happen to anyone, according to the National Weather Service.
With winter approaching, local law enforcement and safety officials remind Carbon County residents to take early precautions for dangerous winter driving.
The weather service stipulates that about 70 percent of all winter deaths occur in automobiles. The service further reports that the most dangerous hazards during the winter months are not the slippery conditions but frostbite and hypothermia that can follow an accident.
Frostbite is damage to body tissue caused by that tissue being frozen.
Frostbite causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose.
The weather service advises local residents experiencing the symptoms to seek medical attention immediately.
Hypothermia is a condition that occurs when body temperature falls below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
The symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, slurred speech, drowsiness and apparent exhaustion.
The weather service warns local residents that the symptoms warrant immediate medical attention.
If that is not possible, it is suggested that the body core be warmed first. Any wet clothing should be removed and replaced with something dry that can be wrapped around the head and neck.
The service cautions against warming the extremities first. Doing so can force cold blood toward the heart, possibly leading to heart failure.
To avoid finding oneself in a situation where frostbite and hypothermia are a possibility the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration has provided the following information to ready a car for winter driving.
Inspect the vehicles tires, regardless of the season tires should be inspected at least once a month and always before embarking on a long trip.
Check the tire pressure and make sure each tire is filled to the vehicle manufacturer's suggested rate, which is listed in the owners manual.
Keep a tire pressure gauge in the vehicle at all times and check the tire pressure cold, meaning they haven't been driven on for at least three hours.
Look closely at the vehicles tire tread and replace tires with uneven or insufficient tread. Tread should be at least 1/16 of an inch or greater on all tires.
Understand the car, all vehicles handle differently and this is particularly true when driving on wet, icy or snowy roads. The safety administration points out that it is important to take the time to learn how to best handle a particular vehicle before driving it in winter conditions.
Practice cold weather driving when show is available, just not on the main road.
Drive slowly. It is harder to control or stop a vehicle on a slick or snow covered road. Increase the following distance between cars when winter driving.
Know what kind of the brakes the vehicle has and how to use them properly. For anti-lock brakes apply firm pressure. For non anti-lock pump the brakes gently during winter conditions.
Plan the travel route and notify friends and family.
Check the weather, road conditions and traffic.
Keep the gas tank close to full during the winter months.
Avoid driving in winter storms unless it is completely necessary.
The weather service stipulates that if an individual is caught outside during the winter months finding shelter is of the utmost importance. They recommend individuals do everything possible to stay dry and avoid exertion as sweating can cause a major chill. Some tips for being caught outside include:
Prepare a lean-to, wind break or a snow cave for protection from the wind. Wind chill can decrease the temperature by as much as 30 degrees.
Build a fire for heat and to attract attention.
Place rocks around the fire to absorb and reflect heat.
According to the service it is also vital to drink plenty of liquids if possible but do not eat snow, it will lower body temperature. It must be melted before consumption.
The service reported that some essential storage supplies for any vehicle during the winter include:
A flashlight and extra batteries
Extra food and water, including high energy food such as dried fruit or candy. Food requiring no refrigeration or cooking is best.
First aid supplies.
Emergency heating sources such as matches for starting a fire and thermopacks.
Blankets or a sleeping bag.
Compass and road maps.
The service closed their preparatory guide by warning that all families should have a "family disaster plan" focused on specific actions that could be taken during a winter disaster.
The plan should include the specific items and actions needed for surviving a winter disaster.
According to the weather service, most families think something like this could never happen to them but being stranded on an icy winter road is something that could happen to anyone.