Four Corners Health Department — Aging with winter weather

Winter weather means added safety concerns both when walking and driving. You never know when you could hit a patch of black ice or slip on the snow. There is a higher risk of crashes due to poor road conditions. Snow, ice, wind, and extreme cold can cause many hazards, especially when driving. It can be scary and dangerous. The best thing you can do is be prepared!

Here are some tips to keep you prepared for traveling in winter weather!

  • Know before you go: Always check the weather before you plan to travel. If it looks like the weather could be bad, plan to leave earlier or later to avoid it. Check http://511.nebraska.gov/ for road conditions. Plan ahead and do your research to know which roads would be the best to travel on. Always give yourself extra travel time.
  • Check your car: Make sure all lights are working properly, be sure there is enough window wiper fluid, and check the tires. Cold air can affect the tire pressure. All snow and ice should be cleared from the car before you drive. Keep at least half a tank of gas in your car. Then if a detour is needed or you get stuck, you have plenty to spare. It’s just as easy to keep the top half of the tank full as the bottom.
  • Have an emergency kit: Always have an ice scraper (preferably with a brush) in your car during the winter months. Consider also carrying a first aid kit, blanket, flashlight, small shovel, non-perishable snacks, some drinking water, and some basic tools.
  • Stay connected: Share your planned route. Let others know when you leave and arrive safely. Touch base when making any stops so someone knows where you are if something were to happen. Make sure your phone is fully charged before you leave. Carry a charger just in case.
  • Keep emergency numbers handy: Have all important numbers in your phone. Consider having the most important numbers also either memorized or written down.
  • Stay with your car: If you find yourself stuck, stay with your car. You will have shelter and won’t get lost. Make sure your car can be seen. Use your flashers. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear and don’t run your car constantly. This will prevent poisoning and preserve power.
  • Stay slow and keep control: When the roads are slick, it is more difficult to control or stop a vehicle. Remember, don’t crowd a plow! They typically move slowly, make wide turns, stop, and exit the roadways more frequently.
  • Remove large coats: Bulky winter coats can keep a seat belt from clicking in place and holding us tightly against the seat. The coat can compress in a crash and allow you to slip out of the seat belt from impact.  Have a coat with you to be warm outside, but try to remove it for the car.

We especially want to encourage the aging population to be extra careful.

  • Scan ahead when walking. It helps you to be prepared and see any hazards you may be approaching.
  • Walk as though snow and ice are always present. They may not always be visible.
  • Use shoes suitable for outdoors. Wear bright-colored clothing so you can easily be seen.
  • Plan ahead if you need to use a walking stick, cane, walker, or another support device. You can get ice tips for canes or attachable ice cleats to help with traction on your shoes.
  • When getting in and out of a vehicle don’t be afraid to use the dashboard, car seat, or assist handles. Use handrails even if you feel you don’t need to. It may help against unforeseeable slick spots. Make sure your foot is well-planted with each step. Don’t rush, take it slowly.
  • It’s okay to ask for help. Have someone else shovel snow for you and put down salt on the walking paths.  Walk with someone so you can hold onto their arm or hand.
  • Don’t try to carry too many things at once.
  • Make sure you can see any hazards. Get your eyes checked and don’t let a hat or scarf block your vision.
  • Carry your cell phone, whistle, or some sort of device so you can call for help if a fall does occur.

Four Corners offers many classes that may be of interest. Tai Chi and Stepping On classes can help prevent falls. A Living Well with Chronic Pain class is being planned for early in the new year too!

Use the My Mobility Planning tool, found here:  https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/older_adult_drivers/mymobility/.  Build a plan so that when it is time, you can make your own decision, safely.

Use this to see where you are right now, and learn what changes to watch for.  https://www.nhtsa.gov/older-drivers/driving-safely-while-aging-gracefully

For more information on this topic, go to https://www.nhtsa.gov/winter-driving-tips

To learn more about upcoming events, visit our website at www.fourcorners.ne.gov.

For questions or to learn more, call Four Corners at 402-362-2621 or 877-337-3573 or email us at info@fourcorners.ne.gov

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