PARENTS
01/11/2018 17:57 EST | Updated 01/11/2018 18:03 EST

What To Do If You Get Stuck In Snow While Driving With Kids

Some of these emergency kit ideas are genius.

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Driving in winter is stressful enough, right?

The icy roads. The blowing snow. The chance your car won't even start when it's -30 C.

But add kids to the equation, and knowing what to do in a dangerous winter driving scenario such as getting stuck in snow or skidding off the road into a ditch is that much more vital.

"The presence of children obviously makes safety even more important," Lewis Smith, the manager of national projects for the Canada Safety Council, told HuffPost Canada in a phone interview.

"At this point you're not just talking about your own life, but also the life of people who are very dependent on you."

So, how can you prepare for these winter driving woes?

Check the weather and prepare to drive safely

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This might seem obvious, but knowing what you're up against in terms of weather before you even get in the car is an important step, Kristine D'Arbelles, the senior manager of public affairs for CAA National, told HuffPost Canada in a phone interview.

"We don't really think about this in the summer ... but with winter, knowing if it's going to be dropping to -30 C, knowing if it's going to be snowing, those are important things to know, especially if you're going to be in a car for a long time with kids," D'Arbelles said.

"You're already stopping a lot and there's already a lot going on in a car when you have children."

Drive for the conditions, Smith said. Don't go too fast and make sure you can actively see around you in order to predict what other drivers might do and adjust your driving accordingly, he noted, adding that you should get winter tires, which have a much more effective grip in colder weather.

It's all about what's in the trunk

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Your trunk should be stocked with some key winter tools and an emergency kit, Smith said.

The priority for the driver should always be that the car is being taken care of and the situation, should one arise, is being addressed, and to do that you'll need tools such as an ice scraper, a small shovel, or a bag of salt to give you traction if your wheels are spinning, Smith said.

And if you're going nowhere fast, that's where the emergency kit comes in. An emergency kit should have essentials such as non-perishable food, water, warm clothing, a flashlight, candles, and a book of matches, Smith said.

Only 36 per cent Canadians have an emergency kit in their car, according to a 2012 CAA survey.

Pack an emergency kit for kids

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"When kids come along, the big factor is to make sure there's enough in the emergency kit for everyone," Smith said.

Extra hats, mitts, and blankets will go a long way, D'Arbelles said.

"Kids get cranky when they're cold ... so having that extra-warm clothing will alleviate some of that stress by making them comfortable," she said.

Make sure you have some kid-friendly snacks such as granola bars, too, she said.

If your kids aren't toilet trained, throw in some disposable bags for dirty diapers and keep in mind that wipes may freeze in the cold weather — paper towels are a good alternative, D'Arbelles said. If your kids are just starting to become toilet trained, a small travel potty can be a lifesaver if they need to go to the bathroom on the side of the road, she added.

Finally, keep some toys in the car, D'Arbelles and Smith both suggested.

"Anything to make the wait as painless as possible," Smith said.

Stay in the car

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If you're good and stuck, stay in the car to conserve the heat until help arrives.

There are of course some situations where you'll want to exit the vehicle, such as the possibility of an engine fire, if you're stuck in a dangerous spot (like the middle of an intersection), or you can see or smell chemicals spilling out of the car, D'Arbelles said.

But otherwise, stay put — you don't know how long it could take for help to arrive. And don't run the engine constantly, D'Arbelles said.

"Run it until everyone is comfortable enough, and then turn it off. Because otherwise you'll just burn through all your gas and you don't know how long you'll be stuck."

The bottom line

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With a little road safety preparation, you can make the most of the bad situation that is driving through the snowy, slushy, cold landscape of this country six months out of the year.

Check the weather, drive for the conditions, and keep your trunk stocked with emergency essentials.

"You may never use it. You may never get stuck in the snow. But the day you actually do get stuck in the snow on the side of the road somewhere, you're going to be happy that you have a few granola bars to keep the kids happy," D'Arbelles said.

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