New app could help drivers stranded on snowy roads

Kristin McGrath
If you were stranded in your car during a blizzard, would you know what to do? A new smartphone app aims to prevent drivers from making deadly mistakes.

The app, called the Winter Survival Kit, was developed by the North Dakota State University Extension Service. The free app is available for Android and iPhone devices.

When motorists tell the app they're stranded, it goes into action by doing the following:

  • Finding the driver's current geographic location.
  • Helping the driver call 911.
  • Reminding the driver to notify friends and family.
  • Calculating how long the driver can keep the engine running based on the amount of fuel remaining.
  • Alerting the driver every 30 minutes to turn off the engine and check the exhaust pipe for snow buildup (which could lead to carbon monoxide exposure for anyone inside the car).

The app also provides motorists with plenty of reading material while they're riding out the storm: tips for what to do -- and what not to do -- while stranded in the cold. For example, a motorist might assume that the best course of action is to leave the car and seek help. But one of the app's survival tips warns the user to stay in the car because it's almost impossible to maintain a sense of direction in blowing snow.
Motorists can also use the app to plan for getting stranded. Users can designate a list of emergency contacts as well as store auto insurance and roadside assistance policy numbers. They  also can follow the app's instructions in creating a winter roadside survival kit and prepping their cars for winter.
These preparation tips could be vital for those who live in cold climates because being stuck roadside during a snowstorm is a dangerous predicament. Cold temperatures could lead to hypothermia, while deep snow can make it difficult for rescuers to reach a car for hours or even days. Unfortunately, many motorists are ill prepared for being stranded. A recent Allstate survey found that barely half of U.S. motorists could survive for three days with what they have in their cars.
Download the iPhone app here and the Android app here.

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