Normally, going on a car journey is a relatively risk free exercise which does not lend itself to apprehension; just a matter of routine.
This laissez-faire approach to motoring has to be revised when we factor in extra factors like extreme weather conditions or driving through particularly inhospitable areas like deserts. The unexpected can and does happen. There was no better example of this than what happened to the Kim family in 2006. Whilst returning back home after visiting family and friends in Seattle, Washington, the Kim’s lives changed forever. A missed turn and a catalogue of mistakes turned into tragedy. The family found themselves stranded.
James Kim, an American TV presenter, decided that they would have a night stop over in a hotel as the weather was getting bad. However rather than staying in a nearby motel en route, he decided he wanted to go to a specific boutique hotel which was quite some distance away from their location. The family got lost and eventually stranded. After a while the fuel in the vehicle ran out and they could no longer keep warm. With a young child and baby, food also ran out and in desperation and freezing snowy conditions, James Kim set out in minimal clothing to look for help. He was found dead days later.
This case is quite extreme but it illustrates one point quite effectively: failure to prepare for such eventualities when traveling in treacherous conditions can prove incredibly costly.
Therefore, below are a few basis guidelines which should be observed as much as possible before venturing out.
Plan Your Route
This sounds obvious but you’d be surprised just how many people begin a journey with absolutely no idea where the hell they are going. Try to plan your trip with a map and visualise the route with time for toilet and refreshment breaks. Modern technology can also be a real boon here: use satellite views to identify landmarks that’ll help you gauge your progress.
Again, you would expect this to be a given, but you’d be surprised by the number of breakdowns that could be prevented by proper fuel management. Make sure you fill the tank on long journeys and where possible, carry a can in your boot. Never set out with a half-full tank believing you’ll find somewhere to fill up later on. The Kim family’s troubles were made a lot worse due to the petrol running out which subsequently ended their heat source, and their ordeal could have been avoided with a well-stocked fuel supply.
Extreme weather usually involves snow and ice and the problem which leaves many people stranded is lack of mobility caused by lack of grip. It’s a good idea to keep extra rubber mats in the boot and if the budget allows, snow chains.
Food and Drink
If the unthinkable happens, your chances of survival are greatly improved if you carry some food with and, more importantly, water with you. Sensible things to keep in your storage compartments are chocolate, fruit and biscuits; anything high in energy and protein. Lynn Keesler from Texas survived on M & Ms for a week after her car was stranded in a pond, so keep that glove box well stocked!
Satellite navigation devices can be powerful tools for finding your way around. The most important thing, though, is that you exercise proper caution. News stories about motorists who get lost while blindly following their sat-nav are relatively common. It’s especially important to be careful using such technology in remote areas, where road and map data is likely to be incomplete.
This doesn’t mean carry half the contents of your wardrobe, rather just certain items to protect from the elements if you have to leave the safety of the vehicle. An extra jumper is also a good idea even if you are staying put as a non starting engine will not provide any heat and you may start to feel the cold quite quickly.
This is a simple one; if you have a phone then you can phone for help. Just make sure it’s fully charged and preferably take a car charger with you. Like the GPS, though, it’s important not to rely on this option to get you out of a sticky situation. If you’re in the middle of nowhere, you’re unlikely to get any reception, so have a plan B.
And finally, tell friends or family the route you are taking. If after breaking down and /or becoming stranded, try to ascertain where you are and immediately ring for help. You should have the number of your recovery service in your list of contacts along with your membership number. Stay with the vehicle where possible!
This guide to breakdown survival was brought to you by the eternally safety conscious drivers at Vroomvroomvroom.co.uk providing cheap car rental from Manchester airport and around the UK.