Winter travel in a car always has some risks, especially for younger, inexperienced drivers. Roadways are unevenly covered with ice, snow, slush and water making otherwise normal driving hazardous and unnerving. Driving across the northern part of the United States can take you from a seemingly beautiful late-fall/early-winter day into a white-knuckle whiteout where speeds above 30mph are impossible.
While you can’t control the roads, or the weather, or even the other guy behind the wheel who isn’t as careful or experienced in driving in winter conditions, you can prepare a bit with some smartphone apps and accessories to make things a bit more safe.
First of all, I should mention that 1) driving in stormy winter conditions is not advised so delay travel whenever possible, 2) you should NOT use mobile phone while driving, and 3) you should always carry a winter survival kit.
There are also some basic maintenance items you should do to your vehicles to minimize the chances of a mechanical failure. And for some basic tips and other information on winter driving, check out IcyRoadSafety.com.
As part of the #FordDriveSafe program, here are some ways your smartphone can help you on your winter travels.
- Driving Conditions Map – Most, if not all, states have a road conditions website and/or app on which you can check the current driving conditions. If you do not know your state’s website, or are traveling to another state, check with the US Dept of Transportation National Traffic and Road Closure website. This site, which is unfortunately not mobile friendly, contains links to the states website along with other weather and traffic info.
- Weather Apps – Pretty much all of the weather apps for smartphones now feature some sort of GPS integration so they can show “live” weather info dependent on your location. Turn that on while traveling to get up-to-the-minute maps, forecasts and data where you are, not where you were. It’s also handy to turn severe weather alerts so you get alerted to changing and potentially dangerous conditions ahead.
- Winter Survival App – Available for iOS and Android devices, this app has some handy tips on what to do if you do get stranded in a winter storm, some preparedness tips before you get stranded, and handy storage for important phone and account numbers for roadside assistance and other folks you may call during an emergency.
- Spare Power – Things happen in the cold or during an accident, so you shouldn’t count on your vehicle’s battery being able to charge your phone over an extended time. To counter that, plug your phone in during the trip if possible to ensure that when something happens you’re fully charged and can be used if needed. Carrying spare power, like a Motorola Power Pack, will ensure even longer battery life so you can maintain contact with friends and potential rescuers for a longer time. Also, I know you’re going to want to listen to music, play games or watch movies to pass the time, but remember, your phone is an important link to the outside world in an emergency so conserve the battery as best you can. Finally, you can always install a battery saver app to lengthen your phone’s battery life.
- Maps – Sometimes in remote areas it is impossible to tell where you are exactly. Using screenshots of Google Maps or another mapping software, sending raw coordinates from a compass app, or using a dedicated app like Send My Location will speed up anyone who might be looking for you or on the way to help. If you want to track children, or don’t mind people knowing where you are at any time, there’s an Android app called Cell Phone Tracker which displays your constant location to another user if you accept the invitation.
- First Aid – Just in case, it would be good to have some help in case of emergency. The Red Cross First Aid app has all the information you should need to treat someone injured during your winter travel.
- Radio – Radio is still the go-to method of communication for many during bad weather or emergencies, especially in rural areas. Sometimes you’re out of your home area and can’t get a signal to the radio station that carries important information ahead of you, or you might be stranded and need to stay in touch with important info from emergency services. Apps like iHeartRadio and RadioPup have links to hundreds of radio stations throughout the US.
- Communication – Believe it or not, you can actually use your mobile phones to call people… yep, real live conversation. Call ahead to find out what the driving conditions are or are forecasted to be, for updates during your travel and to let others know you safely reached your destination. You can also send texts, social media updates or emails to send or gather travel info.
Our mobile phones are becoming our communication lifelines and information tools. While most of us use them to entertain ourselves and post to Facebook, they can be a lifesaving device as well if you use them.
Have any other ideas on how you can use your mobile phones to travel safer during these winter months? Send them to me @BeBizzy on Twitter and I’ll add them to the list!
Disclosure: BeBizzy receives a fee for participating in certain promotional campaigns for Ford Motor Company.