St. Joe’s Trauma Director Shares Winter Safety Tips

marymargaret-brandt-md-smSt. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor (SJMAA) achieved Level I Trauma Center verification this year from the American College of Surgeons (ACS), demonstrating expertise to treat the most severely injured patients through multidisciplinary trauma care from prevention through rehabilitation.

Winter is naturally a busy time for the Trauma Center as patients come in with injuries from slips and falls, hypothermia and frostbite, overexertion from shoveling snow and, of course, vehicle accidents.

Trauma Center Medical Director Dr. Mary-Margaret Brandt, shares some important tips to help you and your family stay safe this winter. 

  1. What is the number one thing people can do to be safe on the roads this winter?
    Plan ahead. Make sure your car is winter-ready and that you have a winter emergency car kit and drive carefully.
  2. What are some important things to keep in mind when planning ahead?
    Part of planning for your trip, besides packing up presents, is to check the weather report and road conditions for your travel route. Be sure to listen to traffic reports for accidents, have a cell phone with emergency numbers pre-programmed and take your time.
  3. What does it mean to have your car winter-ready?
    Your car windshield fluid reservoir is filled, tires properly inflated, battery charged, and wiper blades should completely clean your windshield. Know whether your car has an anti-lock brakes system or not. Do not run your car for long periods of time or in enclosed spaces.
  4. What should be included in a winter emergency car kit?
    The car kit should have items you would need if you have a car emergency, like a gas can, ice scraper, jumper cables, blanket, water, first aid kit, cell phone charger, water, snacks, kitty litter, a shovel, flares and warm clothes.
  5. What are some tips for safe winter driving?
    Motorists should keep a safe distance between themselves and other vehicles to allow for enough space to stop. If you have anti-lock brakes, apply steady brake pressure to avoid skidding. If you don’t have anti-lock brakes, you may need to pump your brakes. Driving speed should depend on road condition and visibility. Avoid using cruise control in wet, icy or snowy conditions to keep control of acceleration and deceleration.
  6. Motorists are going to encounter snowplows  during the winter, what is the best way to navigate them?
    Snowplows can create a cloud of snow that may limit your visibility and throw ice, rocks or salt at your vehicle. It’s important to keep a safe distance between your vehicle and the snowplow. If you are driving behind a snowplow, don’t follow too closely because a snowplow operator’s field-of-vision is limited. Remember, if you can’t see the mirrors, the driver can’t see you.
  7. What should a person do if they find themselves in an emergency situation?
    If you are stopped or stalled, stay in your car – it provides temporary shelter. Use your cell phone to call for assistance. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm, and don’t overexert yourself if you have to push or dig your vehicle out of the snow. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. If you have to spend the night in your car, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you. Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment while the engine is running. If possible run the engine and heaters just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline. Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats or newspapers.
  8. What other things should people do to be safe on the road during this winter season?
    Drivers and passengers should always wear a seat-belt. Make sure everyone else in your vehicle is buckled-up in age-and size-appropriate restraints. Never text and drive. And always drive sober.
  9. What is the best advice you can give people during this winter driving season?
    This time of year the weather can change at any given moment and become dangerous. Taking the time to prepare for winter weather by having the necessary emergency equipment with you will not only save you time but also keep you safe.  And remember if you don’t have to go out, stay home. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors and stay off the road.

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