Survive a Frozen Commute, Snowbound Vehicle

An excerpt from The Ultimate Winter Survival Handbook

In any given week, the psychology and motivations of drivers can be clearly seen in the rate of accidents on certain days and at specific times.

Fridays average out to be the most accident prone commute day, and the reason seems to boil down to one simple factor – people are thinking about the weekend ahead and not the road in front of them.

The dreaded “hump day”, Wednesday comes in as the second most dangerous commuting day, trailed by Thursdays and Mondays. Tuesday turns out to be the safest commute day of the work week. And what time of day is the most treacherous? According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the most dangerous time to be on the roads is between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. as people are rushing to get home for the evening.

Your car can be your shelter, or a death trap, depending on the supplies you carry.
Your car can be your shelter, or a death trap, depending on the supplies you carry.

Other factors do come into play when the winter weather takes a bad turn. For example, the first day after a snowstorm is statistically more dangerous than the day of the storm (because most people stay home or use more caution during the storm). And an ice event can send everyone skidding into each other or the ditches.

Increase your odds of staying safe by employing these four commute safety tips.

Stop Texting
Not only is it illegal in many areas, it distracts you from the road!

Watch Your Speed
Driving slower gives you the time to react to the sudden moves made by other cars. Give yourself both the time and distance to react.

Lead by Example
Use your turn signal, leave room between cars, maintain a steady speed, and follow the rules. You might just inspire the drivers around you to do the same.

Join The Watch
Check your mirrors very often. Watch the car in front of you, and the car in front of it. This allows you to react at the same time as the car in front of you and prevent the most common automobile accident – rear ending each other in traffic.

Survival on The Road: Light And Heat For a Snowbound Vehicle

Emergency supplies can be a real lifesaver, especially if they help you survive in a snowbound vehicle in the winter.

Your vehicle should always be stocked with food, extra clothing and survival supplies. You’ll also want to bring these three items for emergency lighting and make sure you are ready to provide your own heat if the engine stops or you run out of fuel.

Bring a Flashlight
An obvious solution to your lack of lighting, flashlights and headlamps can provide light and signal for help. Make sure you have spare batteries.

Light a Candle
While a bit of a fire hazard, a small candle (like a tea light) can be lit and placed on the vehicle’s dashboard for light and a tiny bit of warmth. Don’t light multiple candles, as the candles consume oxygen and a snow bound car lacks the airflow of an unburied vehicle. Health problems such as hypoxia arise when staying in a low oxygen environment for an extended time. Signs and symptoms of this include tiredness, nausea, headache, and shortness of breath.

Crack a Light Stick
This chemically induced lighting can last a long time and poses none of the hazards of candles. The only drawback is that you cannot turn the activated sticks “off” and save them for later. These are one-hit-wonders.

Survival isn’t just for the woods, waters and wild places – driving can be a life or death situation, too!
Survival isn’t just for the woods, waters and wild places – driving can be a life or death situation, too!

Generate Emergency Heat
Yes, the derelict vehicle can keep you out of the wind and precipitation, but all that metal makes a vehicle feel more like an icebox than a proper shelter. When the sun drops and the frigid temperatures come, use these techniques to stay warm (or warmer than you would have been) inside that cold steel box.

  • Heat up stones in a fire outside the vehicle, then set them on the bare metal floorboard. For body heaters rather than space heaters, warm the rocks slightly, wrap them in cloth and hold them inside your clothing.
  • Activate hand warmer or foot warmer packs and place them in your clothing. In a pinch, you could also use the ration heater from an MRE, but be aware that it makes a lot of steam. This could dampen your clothing and make you feel colder after the heater pack has burned out.
  • If you can create some hot water, place it in a melt-proof bottle, wrap in in cloth or insert it into a sock. Stuff this old fashioned hot water bottle into your clothes or sleeping bag for several hours of blessed warmth.

These tips, and many more survival skills, are available in MacWelch’s three New York Times Bestselling books:

Prepare For Anything

The Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual

How to Survive Anything and available now The Ultimate Winter Survival Handbook

And if that’s not enough, you can:
Follow Tim on Twitter @timmacwelch

Take one of his survival classes at
and check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles at Outdoor Life Magazine’s survival site, The Survivalist.

And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.



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