Life Hacks

6 Expert Tips to Help Sidestep Winter Hazards

Whether you're in your car or at home, these tips will keep you safe.

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Our experts share easy ways to stay safe and warm when you’re out and about in frosty weather.

To dodge car skids: Be black-ice savvy

Icy conditions cause more than 156,000 car accidents per year, but you don’t have to be in one of them, promises automotive expert Lauren Fix. She encourages simply paying attention to a couple of key numbers when tuning into your local weather report. “Black ice appears when it’s between 30 and 35 degrees Fahrenheit,” she says. “It forms when there’s moisture on the roadway from precipitation or morning dew, which then freezes.” Black ice is especially common on elevated surfaces like bridges, overpasses, and areas shaded by trees. What to do if you do start sliding? “Avoid braking, which will cause your vehicle to spin,” says Fix. Instead, gently steer in the direction the vehicle is sliding (left if you’re veering left, right if you’re veering right), which helps get you out of the skid safely.

To avoid icy slips: Walk like a penguin

Every year, more than 1 million people are injured from slipping on slick surfaces — and cases spike in the winter due to slippery ice and snow. Wearing shoes with flat, nonslip soles is your first line of defense. What also works: “Walk like a penguin,” urges Tammy Franks of the National Safety Council. “Just lean forward slightly so your center of gravity is over your feet, bend your knees a bit, point your toes out, then shuffle along taking short steps,” she says. “This ‘shuffle’ improves stability as you walk.” As for your hands, keep them out of pockets and at your sides, which boosts balance significantly.

To fend off frostnip: Layer the right way

You already know dressing in layers keeps you warm, but you may be surprised to learn that layering your clothes a specific way keeps you even cozier and prevents frostnip — the precursor to frostbite. “For the inner layer that rests directly against your skin, avoid cotton, which holds on to perspiration, making you feel wet and cold,” advises Franks. Instead, wear moisture-wicking material, such as non-itchy merino wool, which helps sweat evaporate so you stay dry and warm.” Over that, opt for an insulating layer, such as a sweater, and over that, a coat that keeps out moisture. “And be sure your layers are loose,” she urges. “A loose fit promotes circulation, which keeps you warmer.”

Stay safe indoors too!

  • Check these batteries: Cases of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning triple in the wintertime due to the odorless, colorless gas being emitted by fuel-burning heaters, fireplaces and cars warming up in attached garages. Experts recommend replacing batteries in CO detectors once a year.
  • Follow the 3-foot rule: Home heating is the cause of more than 50,000 fires in winter every year — and 54 percent of those are due to flammable items placed too close to a heating source. The fix: Simply keep drapes, bedding, clothing and such 3 feet away from heaters, fireplaces and furnaces.
  • Plug in safely: Portable space heaters cause the most winter heating fires for the simple reason that they’re not plugged in properly. Electric heaters are designed to plug directly into a wall outlet, not an extension cord or power strip — even one with a surge protector — since those can overheat.

This story originally appeared in our print magazine.

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