What To Do If an Avalanche Happens While Driving

What To Do If an Avalanche Happens While Driving

By Ursula Nizalowski

As it rains in the valleys and canyons of Colorado this spring, snow is falling in the mountains
due to colder temperatures and higher elevation. With that comes the risk of avalanches, which
can be deadly if one isn’t prepared for handling them. In fact, an avalanche hit 10 vehicles at
Berthoud Pass in the Rockies earlier this year according to Summit Daily . Luckily, no one was
hurt or killed. Still, here is a list of tips on how to deal with an avalanche if it happens while one
is driving a car.

What To Do

Stay In Vehicle – Though it may seem like the best option to get out of a car that’s
trapped in thick layers of snow left from an avalanche, it’s actually better to stay inside for the
time being. Because “If the avalanche occurred on a major roadway, it is likely that help is
already on the way. Also, it is possible that another avalanche will happen shortly after the first”
says the Denver Gazette .

Dress in Extra Layers – What’s worse than getting buried in snow is the coldness
that follows. Our bodies can only withstand the cold so much before we succumb to
hypothermia, frostbite, and even pneumonia. So it’s always a good idea to wear many layers of
clothing to prevent these conditions from happening.

Call For Help If Possible – Depending on where the avalanche happens, there’s no
guarantee that help will come in a timely fashion. Now instead of leaving the snowbound car to
get help, maybe try using one’s cellphone to call emergency services. Though this should only
be done if one is in an area that has reception, otherwise it wastes time and battery life.


What Not To Do



Leave The Engine Running – Apart from wearing more clothes, it’s tempting to
also turn on the heaters in the car to stay warm while trapped in an avalanche. But all this does is
cause car exhaust from the engine to build up inside, which could lead to poisoning from the
carbon monoxide that’s produced. Plus the thickness of the snow outside makes it difficult for a
car to ventilate properly, and thus it’s safer to turn the engine on sparingly.

Dig Vehicle Out – Since snow is made of water, this can cause rust to develop on the
car itself. Thus, one is inclined to take a proactive approach by shoveling snow off the car after
the avalanche has passed. However, such an action can lead to excess sweating which isn’t good
for staying warm as moisture leaves the body making one feel colder due to the loss of energy.

Smoke – Though Colorado has made cannabis legal, “Neither drivers nor passengers are
allowed to open any marijuana packaging and use the product while in a vehicle, even if you are
not moving” Colorado Cannabis says on their website. So it’s not a good idea to smoke or
consume marijuana products in a car that’s stuck in an avalanche. Now smoking regular
cigarettes is just as problematic as they produce carbon monoxide, which adds to the kind made
by car exhaust leading to further poisoning for the passengers and driver.

For more information on what to do in an avalanche-related accident, feel free to contact attorney
Rick Wagner .