January 11th, 2010
12:50 PM ET

Dangerous drives

By Rebecca Leibowitz
CNN Medical Intern

Talk about an "I-told-you-so" moment. On the night before my drive from my Atlanta school to home in Washington, D.C., I had a conversation with my dad that he won’t soon forget. “Becca,” he warned, “You shouldn’t leave tomorrow. It’s supposed to snow, and driving could be very dangerous.” “Dad, I’ll be fine!” I yelled, ignoring his advice. “Don’t worry about it! See you tomorrow night.” Fat chance.

I left Atlanta on Friday, December 18th, the day the 2009 blizzard began to pummel the southeastern United States. The snow began falling about two hours into my drive, changing very quickly from a pretty distraction to a blinding and dangerous terror. Around 9:30 pm, after pulling off the highway to get gas, I re-entered I-81 in southwest Virginia to find traffic at a standstill. Not crawling – completely stopped. We did not move again until 10:30 am the next morning. My passenger and I had no choice but to sleep in my car – rolling all the windows down in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and covering our bodies with whatever we could find to keep warm. When we finally got moving, we were told that the highway was closed in several places farther north. I checked into the nearest motel and collapsed there for the next 24 hours. When I finally left for home the next day, I passed dozens – maybe hundreds – of disabled cars.

The drive from Atlanta to Washington is supposed to take 10 hours with “normal” traffic. It took me three days.

Although I did make it back in one piece, there were many things I could have done differently to protect my health and safety along the way. What should you do to prepare yourself for a long drive? How can you minimize risk when confronted with difficult driving circumstances?

1. Invest in a car cell phone charger. Since most phone batteries don’t last for more than a few hours of talk time, this is indispensable.

2. Bring the essentials – and keep them in your car. You should have a blanket, non-perishable food, bottles of water, an ice scraper and flares in the trunk of your car at all times. You never know when you’ll need them.

3. Know that the GPS can help you, but it can also hurt you. Certain features of my GPS helped me out when I got into trouble, but it also led me into trouble in the first place by instructing me to take a more hazardous route. If snowfall is expected along your trip, take a major highway. They tend to be much better plowed and easier to drive on.

4. Don’t let your car’s gas gauge fall below a half a tank, and if you’re stopped in traffic for a long time, turn off your lights. You don’t want to run out of gas or drain your battery!

5. If you drive into inclement weather, don’t panic. Put on some relaxing music, drive cautiously and take deep breaths. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe at any time, do not hesitate to pull over.

6. Avoid trucks and tractor trailers, as their large wheels can splash blinding slush and snow on your car’s windshield. Drive in the middle lanes of the highway, which tend to be better plowed, and avoid reckless drivers.

7. If you see someone in a bind and you have the time, help them out – but don’t put your safety at risk. I don’t know what I would have done if not for the generous strangers who helped push my car out of a snow bank or the friendly motel concierge who drew a map of how to avoid unplowed highways on the final leg of my trip.

Adverse driving conditions can materialize without warning. Just hours before I left Atlanta, forecasters predicted only moderate snowfall along my route. Ensure your health and safety as well as that of your passengers – prepare for the worst when embarking on a long road trip. Don’t make me say “I told you so!”

How do you prepare for an upcoming long drive? Have you been faced with a difficult driving experience? How did you cope?

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

« Previous entry
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Ted F.

    Hey 'Becca, They say that if you're stuck in the snow, you should turn your car on for about 10 minutes per hour to warm things up. That way, you will hopefully neither freeze, nor run out of gas.

    It sounds like you were lucky to get to a motel, and to find a vacancy there.

    January 11, 2010 at 23:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Kraig Rasool

    I do believe that humans sometimes think they are invincible and
    forget that mother nature has all the power in one finger...I drove once
    from DC to Texas during what started out as good weather(although I
    was giving wrong directions)...I literally drove down thru Georgia and
    Alabama just to get to Texas which took a whopping 39 hours...suffice
    to say I also was pummeled with tornado winds while driving in
    Texas and also dust storms which made me a instant member of the
    blind society...However because I had a jeep and 45 peanut-butter and
    jelly sandwiches and at the time a car-phone I just knew I was king
    of the road and nothing could prevent me from my destination....I was'
    ill-prepared and could have been hurt...Front tire with a nail and no
    emergency equipment...but also debit cracked and not working....It
    was a nightmare., now as I am older I listen to all the necessary items
    needed on a journey cause you never know which finger mother nature will throw at you.

    January 12, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Colin

    8. Listen to your dad next time...he's older & wiser for a reason.

    For those in northern climates, I would like to add to your list. Hat, gloves, boots, snow shovel, and window washing fluid. The washing fluid is more important than many realize...your vision can get quite impaired if you've run out of fluid and the snow & salt start mucking up your windshield.

    January 14, 2010 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Fredo

    I just got caught in a big ice storm on Interstate 40 between Amarillo TX and Tucumcari NM. I saw a lot of people driving 70 and finding out that they didn't have any control on glare ice. 2 Fatalities.
    My advice: Slow Down!

    January 14, 2010 at 18:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Mom

    Next time, listen to your father.

    January 14, 2010 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Aunt Paula

    Always listen to you Dad.
    It was lucky you gassed up before getting stuck sleeping in the car. Moral: No point in being fearless and in a hurry!

    January 16, 2010 at 11:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. zortilo nrel

    Magnificent goods from you, man. I have bear in mind your stuff prior to and you're just too great. I really like what you've acquired here, really like what you are stating and the way in which wherein you assert it. You're making it enjoyable and you still care for to stay it smart. I can not wait to learn much more from you. This is really a wonderful web site.


    December 20, 2020 at 03:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. frolep rotrem

    I like this post, enjoyed this one thankyou for putting up.


    January 26, 2021 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. froleprotrem

    You are a very clever person!


    February 4, 2021 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. http://www.fokuszpalyazat.hu/

    Howdy very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I'll bookmark your blog and take the feeds additionally?KI'm satisfied to seek out so many helpful info right here in the put up, we want work out more techniques in this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .


    February 9, 2021 at 05:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. ClarkTauts

    52wwi nmh5l lpnl

    February 28, 2021 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Marlen Shrader


    March 4, 2021 at 10:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. 918kiss-m.com

    Hey very nice blog!

    my webpage – epicwin demo id (918kiss-m.com)

    April 21, 2021 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. epicwin download

    I for all time emailed this web site post page to all my associates, since if
    like to read it afterward my friends will too.

    my website – epicwin download

    April 25, 2021 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. storno brzinol

    Thanks for sharing superb informations. Your site is very cool. I'm impressed by the details that you have on this web site. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles. You, my friend, ROCK! I found simply the information I already searched everywhere and just couldn't come across. What a great site.


    May 16, 2021 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Download epicwin original

    Hey I know this is off topic but I was wondering if you knew
    of any widgets I could add to my blog that
    automatically tweet my newest twitter updates. I've been looking for a plug-in like
    this for quite some time and was hoping maybe you would have some experience with something like this.
    Please let me know if you run into anything. I truly enjoy reading your
    blog and I look forward to your new updates.

    Feel free to surf to my page ... Download epicwin original

    May 31, 2021 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Percy

    Nice blog here! Also your site loads up very fast!

    What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host?

    I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

    My web-site; epicwin [Percy]

    June 1, 2021 at 19:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Game Online epicwin

    I'm truly enjoying the design and layout of your site.
    It's a very easy on the eyes which makes it
    much more pleasant for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a developer to create your
    theme? Excellent work!

    Take a look at my blog post; Game Online epicwin

    June 4, 2021 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. id test epicwin

    It's actually very complex in this full of activity life to listen news on TV, thus I only use world wide web for
    that purpose, and take the latest information.

    Feel free to surf to my web site ... id test epicwin

    June 6, 2021 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. epicwinapk ios

    Thanks in favor of sharing such a pleasant opinion, paragraph is
    fastidious, thats why i have read it fully

    Here is my web-site; epicwinapk ios

    June 10, 2021 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. epicwin download

    When I initially left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments
    are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I receive four
    emails with the same comment. There has to be an easy method you are able to remove me from
    that service? Kudos!

    Also visit my homepage: epicwin download

    June 11, 2021 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. epicwin

    Thanks to my father who stated to me on the topic of this blog, this webpage is in fact awesome.

    Stop by my web site – epicwin

    June 18, 2021 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

« Previous entry
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

January 2010
  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.