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Road Today - - Safety First -

What do you do if your car breaks down this win­ter on an iso­lated road or maybe slip­pery roads cause you to slide into a ditch? What do you do if your car won’t drive and you don’t have any cell phone re­cep­tion? Should you stay with the car or go for help?

Ac­cord­ing to Dr. Gor­don Gies­brecht, pro­fes­sor of ther­mo­phys­i­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Man­i­toba and one of the world’s fore­most author­i­ties on the body’s re­sponse to cold, the an­swer is clear. The hy­pother­mia ex­pert says you should stay with the car.

“Leav­ing the car and po­ten­tially get­ting lost and stranded with­out shel­ter puts you at risk for frost­bite or hy­pother­mia,” ex­plains Gies­brecht. “Given cer­tain con­di­tions, such as wind chill and wet­ness from rain or snow, you can be­gin to suf­fer from hy­pother­mia, even in tem­per­a­tures above freez­ing. This can quickly be­come life-threat­en­ing.”

Gies­brecht adds that sur­vival in this sit­u­a­tion comes down to the 3 P’s: prepa­ra­tion, preven­tion and

per­for­mance.

Prepa­ra­tion. Pre­pare for a rea­son­able worst-case sce­nario, like be­ing stranded overnight in the cold. Keep a bag in your trunk with items for in­su­la­tion, such as a sleep­ing bag or blan­ket, an old parka, snow pants and spare mitts and boots. Other im­por­tant items in­clude a wide-based can­dle and lighter or matches, and non­per­ish­able snacks.

Preven­tion. Do what you can to avoid be­ing stranded in the first place. For ex­am­ple, make sure your car is work­ing prop­erly and your tires are in­flated and in good shape. En­sure you have a full tank of gas and avoid trav­el­ling in poor weather con­di­tions. If you must travel, share your plans. En­sure a friend or rel­a­tive knows of your route and es­ti­mated arrival time.

Per­for­mance. Know what to do if you do get stranded. Stay with your car. If you’re stuck but the mo­tor still works, make sure that your tailpipe is free of any snow or ice so that you can run the car in­ter­mit­tently for heat. Stay­ing with the car also gives search and res­cue teams a larger ob­ject to spot. Sta­tis­tics show that 95 per cent of searches are suc­cess­ful within 24 hours.

Find more in­for­ma­tion about risks, preven­tion strate­gies and treat­ment for hy­pother­mia and cold in­juries at www.own­thecold.ca. (NC)

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