Weather conditions, shorter days lead to hazardous conditions
Very few years go by when there isn’t at least one day when Metroplex residents wake up to find their lawns and streets covered with snow and ice. School-aged children usually rejoice with the news that schools are closed, but for those who have to brave the winter weather conditions and drive to work, slick roads can be a treacherous trek.
Statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation indicate that winter months are prime time for fatal crashes and fatalities. In January 2015, there were 247 fatal crashes resulting in 281 fatalities. That number climbed in December 2015 to 284 fatal crashes with 313 reported deaths.
“There are a lot of factors that contribute to highway deaths during winter months,” said Chris Noah, MS, CHSP, Director of Disaster Management at Parkland Health & Hospital System. “There is less daylight this time of the year and it’s often harder to see what’s in or on the roadway. It’s even more critical to pay attention to the road and save the phone calls and texting for later.”
If you do hit the road to grandma’s house this winter, Noah advises you get your car serviced before a problem develops. Have your entire vehicle checked thoroughly for leaks, worn hoses or other needed parts, repairs and replacements.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cautions that when the temperature drops, so does battery power. For gasoline-powered engines, be aware that it takes more battery power to start your vehicle in cold weather than in warm. For electric and hybrid vehicles, the driving range is reduced and the battery systems work better after they warm up.
In addition, the NHTSA says drivers should:
• Check your cooling system
• Fill your windshield washer reservoir
• Check your windshield wipers and defrosters
• Verify floor mat installation to prevent pedal interference
• Inspect your tires
• Plan your travel and route, and
• Learn what to do in a winter emergency
“If you are stopped or stalled in wintry weather, stay with your car and don’t overexert yourself,” Noah said. “To avoid asphyxiation from carbon monoxide poisoning don’t run your car for long periods of time with the windows up or in an enclosed space. If you must run your vehicle, clear the exhaust pipe of any snow or run it only sporadically – just long enough to stay warm.”
Every year in America, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning kills more than 500 people and sends another 10,000 people to emergency rooms for treatment. Known as the “silent killer,” this odorless, colorless gas is impossible to see, taste or smell and can be fatal before you are aware it is present.
At lower levels of exposure, CO causes mild symptoms often mistaken for the flu – including headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue. While the effects of CO exposure can vary greatly depending on age, overall health and the concentration and length of exposure, medical experts believe unborn babies, infants, children, senior citizens and people with heart or lung problems are at even greater risk.
“If you find someone who is experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to get them to fresh air and call 911,” said Alexander Eastman, MD, Medical Director and Chief of the Rees-Jones Trauma Center at Parkland and Assistant Professor of Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Once at the hospital, treatment depends on the severity of the carbon monoxide exposure. Mild exposure is treated with oxygen and monitoring of carbon monoxide levels and severe poisoning may require high doses of oxygen therapy.”
For information about Parkland services, please visit www.parklandhospital.com