Stranded: What You Need to Know to Survive


Sometimes, despite our best preventative measures, vehicles experience mechanical failures, or slide off the road because of black ice, or any number of circumstances that could leave you stranded in your car this winter. In a situation like this, it is easy to succumb to panic, but if you are prepared for the worst, you will be much more equipped to handle an emergency.

According to AAA, “in any weather emergency, the challenge is to survive until you’re found.” The number one way to do that is by staying inside your vehicle. Your vehicle is much easier for emergency crews to find than you are. Furthermore, you are at a much greater risk of harm or injury outside of your vehicle than you are inside of it. That being said, make sure to pull off of the road as far as possible to avoid being hit by a passing car.

Your first move should be to call for help. Inform them of your location and situation. Now you wait. Waiting in the cold will not be comfortable or easy, but again, the goal is to survive long enough for help to come. AAA recommends following these tips to increase your chances:

  • Run the engine and heater ten minutes of each hour.
  • Change positions frequently and do minor exercises to maintain body heat.
  • Use anything accessible to you—floor mats, road maps, seat covers, etc.—for insulation.
  • If there are two people or more, huddle together for warmth.
  • Clear the exhaust pipe of snow and crack a window slightly to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Do not overexert yourself by shoveling heavy show or trying to push your vehicle out of a deep snowdrift.

AAA also advises equipping your vehicle with a winter survival kit that includes a flashlight, batteries, hand/foot warmers, first aid supplies, high-energy snacks, a brightly colored cloth or flag, a candle, matches, a cell phone, a shovel, and kitty litter or sand.

The best way to avoid being stranded is to avoid traveling in poor driving conditions and make sure to have your vehicle routinely inspected. If you have to travel in bad weather, inform others of your plans and be prepared for the worst. Knowing how to react in a stranded situation can save your life.