January 23, 2018

Surviving Snow & Ice: GETTING AROUND


The best design for getting around during the season of snow and ice is to set yourself up so that your mobility is as safe and easy as possible. For starters, try not to be out and about when conditions are treacherous. This means having what you need before the bad weather strikes (see the section on preparation). If you must go out, allow extra time – no rushing or mad dashes; go slower and with added mindfulness. Travel during daylight, not at night. Give snow and ice removal services a chance to do their job so your route is as clear as possible; travel on main routes as they will be better maintained than your side street short cuts. Dress appropriately, meaning, have that extra layer of warmth and protection; if something goes wrong, even small, you’ll be happy you had it. Finally, if you go out, let others know where you are going, how you are getting there and when you expect to be back. If something happens, they will know when to act and where to look.


  • Your best driving strategy for snow and ice is: don’t. Even if you are an awesome driver, or if you have an amazing four-wheel drive truck, don’t. Poke your head into any auto insurance office after the bad weather and you’ll see them overwhelmed while processing a flood of new accident claims. Simply put, the roads and circumstances are treacherous; in many cases, the accident isn’t your own doing.
  • If you must drive, plan and prepare:
  1. Take a winter driving class; learn skills such as regaining traction if you have lost it while on a curve or braking.
  2. Have car tuned up, winterized and in good working order; have a full tank of gas, strong battery and good antifreeze.
  3. Have your winter tires on; if you use chains, put them on as needed or have them in the car with you.
  4. Have your emergency items on board (shovel, blanket, flashlight, snacks, ice-scraper, first-aid kit, spare tire, matches or a lighter, and something for traction such as sand or kitty-litter).
  5. Travel on primary roads; avoid side routes that won’t be plowed until later (trouble on a back road means a longer time until help arrives). Check with your municipality about road clean-up.
  6. Travel during the day; hazards of night driving include: colder temps, more hazardous road conditions, poor visibility and slower emergency response.
  7. Allow extra time – this is not a day to be rushed. If you will be late, just let people know, this will relieve the pressure to speed. Remember: slow starts, slow stops, reduced speed, added distance between you and the car ahead.
  8. Take the time to remove all snow off the car and to have good 360 degree visibility; periodically stop and restore visibility as needed.
  9. Dress appropriately; the interior of your car might be cozy and lull you into skipping the snow boots and coat when in fact having them might be the difference between a little bit of trouble and a lot.
  • Watch out for assumptions you make that in normal driving make sense but in bad conditions don’t; they include:
  1. Don’t assume that the other guy will slow down or stop for you (they might have lost or might momentarily loose control).
  2. Don’t assume that your four or all wheel drive is as good in snow as on dry pavement (a false sense of safety).
  3. Don’t assume that you can talk on your phone, eat food and listen to the radio as you might normally do.
  4. Don’t assume that because it’s a day after the storm that the roads are fine (another false sense of security).
  5. Don’t assume that your car’s performance will be normal, it will not steer or stop in snow as it does on dry pavement.
  6. Don’t assume that if you run into trouble that you will be quickly taken care of; be prepared to wait, and stay warm and dry. If you become stranded, staying inside your car is usually safer than leaving it.
  7. Don’t assume that you know what it’s like out there – check conditions first; watch a TV report or listen to the radio.
  • Alert yourself to the conditions that will be especially dangerous; these include:
  1. Stopping, at the bottom of a hill or at a stop sign or light.
  2. Curves in the road that now require slower speeds.
  3. Potholes: winters are rough on roads, hitting a pothole could mean loosing control or getting a flat tire.
  4. Unexpected conditions such as unusual weather patterns or conditions of roads.
  5. Trouble areas such as bridges that ice up, snow drifts and areas prone to black ice.
  • Finally, maintain respect for others including other drivers, pedestrians, road clearing crews and emergency vehicles – they need your attention now more than ever; it is not a good time to double-park by the entrance while you just run in for something “real fast.”

Walking, Wheeling, Canes & Crutches

  • As with driving, the name of the game is: being prepared. Snow and ice warrants extra precaution, not normal or less. Know your limits.
  • Getting out and about in the snow and ice requires extra exertion, balance and coordination; don’t over-estimate your ability.
  • Know the conditions of your route: has it been cleared; might it worsen by the time you return? Is it well lit? It is not uncommon for some access points to be neglected during a storm. If using a ramp, what is the grade of the incline? Steeper ramps become impassible with even just a little snow on them. If you use an alternate route, know its condition too.
  • Know the weather report: how might it change when you are out?
  • If you rely on public transportation, check ahead to make sure they are running and if so how the schedule might be affected.
  • Have the walkway and entrance to your home cleared soon, don’t wait. Should an emergency happen, you and emergency personal will have easier access – sometimes critical to a healthy outcome.
  • Don’t keep hands warm by using pockets – wear gloves; you need your hands for balance, holding railings and even protecting yourself in a fall.
  • Avoid bags; if carrying stuff is necessary, put it in a backpack and secure it to your back (no slinging it over one shoulder). Carrying bags compromises balance and recovery if balance is lost ( a backpack might even break a backward fall possibly saving your back and maybe head)
  • Dress appropriately, see the next section on dress for more info.
  • Increase traction by wearing shoes/boots designed for the snow or by adding cleats. Wheelchairs can be modified with winter tires (extra arm strength and endurance required) or a chain-like add-on. Canes, crutches and walkers can be modified by adding spikes.
  • For added balance, grab a ski pole or two.
  • Bring a cell phone (assuming you are traveling where it will work).
  • Avoid going out at night. It is colder, conditions tend to be worse, visibility is limited, and rescue is more difficult.
  • Add extra time and energy for your trip. Walking in snow and ice requires extra caution and exertion.
  • Let others know about your walk: when will you return and what is your planned route; or, let them know you arrived. They will know when to act and where to look if you are not back on time. This is especially important if traveling alone.
  • Coming inside means wet floors; your journey isn’t over! Pay attention, to interior floors which can give a false sense of security when in fact they are sometimes more treacherous than the outdoors.
  • Recognize the symptoms of hypothermia and frostbite. These require medical attention.
  • And finally, if you are prepared and conditions won’t jeopardize your health and well-being, go out! Get exercise. See and feel some nature. Break up the routine of indoor life.


  • Shoes/boots with good traction, support, insulation and water repellency; you can add traction devices to existing boots such as cleats.
  • Layers: these allow you to regulate body temp. Walking in snow is invigorating and as you warm up you’ll want to let off the extra heat and perspiration (wet cloths cool you quickly, cause chills and can threaten chances of survival). Layers also tend to maintain mobility; heavy or thick coats reduce mobility and limit your ability to recover balance. Don’t forget extra layers for your legs.
  • Avoid denim and other cotton fabrics which absorb water quickly and promote more rapid heat loss. Materials such as wool and newer fabrics, such as polar fleece, retain their insulating capabilities even when wet and many are good at wicking moisture away from the body.
  • Outer garments should be tightly woven, water repellent, and hooded.
  • Cover the mouth with a scarf to protect lungs from cold air.
  • Mittens, snug at the wrist, are better than gloves.
  • Hat; much body heat is lost through the head. A hat might even offer a tiny bit of protection in a fall.
  • Circulation: if your circulation or ability to sense cold is limited, take added precautions.
  • Bright visible colors: makes it easier for drivers and emergency personal to see you or rescue you.
  • Remember, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad cloths for it. If you are prepared, you can not only survive but also enjoy the outdoors.



  • Pets need walks and when they do, take extra precautions: do the evening walk a bit earlier; dress appropriately even if it’s “just a short walk;” or, ask someone else to give your pet a walk.
  • Consider your pet: for a Siberian Husky it’s paradise outside; not so for a hairless Chihuahua. The Husky could stay out longer than you; the Chihuahua will chill quickly and need a coat, maybe booties too.
  • Leave nails a bit longer – these give your dogs better traction.
  • Look out for salt: give your pup booties, or, let them walk on the side of the walkway in the snow (clean the paws once back home). Check the foot for dry, cracked pads. Don’t let your pup lick or eat other deicers – these are toxic.
  • Balance: a tug on the leash can throw off your balance, which on a slippery surface, could send you falling. If this is a concern, consider hiring a temporary dog walker or ask a neighbor. A fenced in yard is another solution.
  • Older pets will have the same snow and ice concerns as older adults (balance, chills, arthritis).