Common sense

by Heather Fors

Seeing cars stranded on the side of the road during a Minnesota winter is no rarity. Phrases such as “glad it’s not me,” come to mind when passers-by witness these poor souls working on their cars or flagging down help.
However, when a car does break down, basic safety precautions could make all the difference in the world.
“Common sense should prevail,” said University Police Capt. Bruce Troupe.
Applying common sense whenever venturing into the frigid outdoors could be the difference between life and death. According to the Minnesota Safety Council, at least one person dies each winter because he or she abandons his or her car.
But basic safety for all winter traveling begins long before the first snow fall.
Drivers should have their cars in excellent working order before winter begins. This lessens the possibility of the car stalling, Troupe said.
Making sure the heater and the windshield wipers work properly is a must, he said. A full tank of gas and a cell phone are also very good things to have when going out.
“I make sure I always have my scarf, my headband and my mittens,” said Wendy Laine, a first year medical student, who commutes to the University every day.
Though she is prepared for any type of winter travel emergency, Laine recommended one essential item for winter driving.
“Kitty litter has helped me innumerable times. I would recommend it to anyone,” she said. Laine uses the kitty litter to help with traction when she gets stuck.
Anne Gituma, a graduate student in the school of nursing, who used to ride the bus, says several layers of clothing is still the best protection.
Gituma’s tactics for staying warm are reinforced by Bob Gibbons, director of customer services for Metro Transit, as well as Jennifer Smith, an urgent care nurse at Boynton Health Services. Both said it is essential to dress in layers.
Wool is ideal, but any material will do, Smith said. Having a spare set of gloves and socks as well as a waterproof jacket or coat are essential for the winter weather.
Gibbons and Troupe both said drivers should avoid traveling in bad weather unless it is absolutely necessary. If people must travel, notifying others of your destination is a good idea so they can watch for you, Troupe said.
Gibbons also noted that the city buses run on different routes during snow emergencies. When these routes are in effect, announcements are made on the local radio and television stations.