Winter's coming. Is your car ready?
It’s no surprise the DMOS Collective was founded in Wyoming. From the dreaded “Wyoming Triangle” on the I-80 corridor in the southeast corner of the state, to the snow-drenched northwest, where Jackson Hole draws skiers from across the globe with many hundreds of inches of snow a year, winter driving can be a challenge.
So if there’s one thing Wyoming Highway Patrol Sergeant Duane Ellis has learned about driving in the wintertime, it’s to expect the unexpected.
“Things can change in an instant,” Ellis says.
Ellis is the Safety Education Officer for Wyoming Highway Patrol, and lives by a common Wyoming saying about the weather: “if you don’t like it, wait five minutes.”
As winters in Wyoming are unpredictable, so, too, are road conditions. Nobody is immune to the risks of variable weather. And the only way to prepare for unpredictability, is to prepare for anything.
Ellis has seen it all. He’s seen people stuck in snow wearing flip flops and shorts, and bald tires traveling over snow and ice. But even the most experienced drivers can fall victim to harsh road conditions.
Still, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure your car is ready for the winter, Ellis says. Here’s how Wyoming Highway Patrol recommends staying safe on winter roads:
Carry a survival kit
“One thing we tell everybody is they need to have a survival kit,” Ellis says. If the worst does happen, especially in Wyoming, “you may be there for a while.” Survival kits should include non-perishable foods, a sleeping bag or blanket, a flashlight or headlamp, and a healthy supply of water.
“Obviously, a snow shovel”
Yeah, duh. A car shovel is another piece of safety equipment you may never need, but should never be without. Experts from the New York Times to Business Insider, and especially Sgt. Duane Ellis, agree that a shovel is an essential piece of safety equipment.
Ellis says all Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers carry special shovels in their cars to help drivers if they get stuck (many carry DMOS)—but if you have your own, you can cut out the middleman. DMOS car shovels have a detachable, collapsible handle so they fit in the trunk of any car, and are optimally designed for moving snow and ice. Get back on the road faster with a DMOS car shovel.
Charge your phone
And carry a charger in your car. You might not always have service, but if you can call for help, you’ll want to make sure your phone is fully charged.
Know your location
Always know where you’re going, and where you’re coming from. Pay attention to mile posts, and try to keep track of where you are on the road. If you do need to call for backup, the more details you can provide, the quicker help will arrive. Especially if you’re traveling alone, always tell people where you’re going and when you think you’ll arrive—and give yourself extra time to get there.
Speaking of extra time
Ellis says the most common calls he gets in the wintertime are from concerned friends or family members of people who didn’t arrive at their destination on time— an “overdue party” in Highway Patrol-speak. Sometimes, it’s warranted, But often, it just “takes more time for people to get from point A to point B” on wintery roads. Assume your trip is going to take a little longer than usual, and give yourself that extra time. It’s especially important to watch your speed on icy roads—slow down, enjoy the journey.
Dress your car for winter
Remember that guy in shorts and flip flops in the middle of winter? You don’t wanna be that guy. Similarly, you don’t want your car to be “that car.”
“Severe temperatures, hot and cold, are very taxing on vehicles,” Ellis says. “Make sure your radiator fluid is up to date, or check to make sure it will withstand very cold temperatures.” Check your washer fluid, your oil levels, and your tire pressure. Make sure your tires are in good condition, and can withstand icy or snowy roads. If you’re not sure, pack some tire chains in your car, right next to your DMOS shovel and emergency kit.
What it boils down to, Ellis says, is preparation. Know as much as you can before you hit the road, but be ready for conditions to change in an instant. Ellis encourages drivers to call 511 for up-to-date road conditions in your area, and if you’re driving through Wyoming, check WYDOT for road closures and conditions.
“Plan ahead, and slow down,” Ellis says. “You more than likely will get to your destination safely and on time.”