Winter road safety: block the GPS, and stock up on these travel supplies

Highway 22 is currently closed and motorists traveling between Central Oregon and the Willamette Valley are being urged to take Highway 20 through Sweet Home or Highway 26 through Government Camp. Over the weekend, Oregon State Police Dispatch received several calls of motorists attempting to take Highway 22, but being rerouted by their GPS units onto Forest Service roads near Detroit. One motorist became stuck in the snow and the other ran out of gas. Often these Forest Service roads are not maintained in the winter and are snow covered. Additionally, there is little to no cell coverage in these areas.

In 2006, a tragedy occurred in Josephine County, when the James Kim family followed GPS directions into Bureau of Land Management land during winter conditions. The family became stranded and after two days, James Kim left on foot for help. He was later found deceased due to exposure to the elements. The remaining members of his family were located and rescued.

Travelers are urged to stay on maintained roads and state highways, while navigating the mountain passes. Motorists are also urged to carry with them an emergency kit while traveling. The Oregon Department of Transportation website lists the following items to be carried in your vehicle for safety.

Essential supplies include:

• Working flashlight and extra batteries;

• Reflective triangles and brightly-colored cloth;

• Compass;

• First aid kit;

• Exterior windshield cleaner;

• Ice scraper and snow brush;

• Wooden stick matches in a waterproof container;

• Scissors and string/cord;

• Non-perishable, high-energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits and hard candy;

• Bottled water;

• Properly inflated spare tire, wheel wrench and tripod-type jack;

• Shovel;

• Jumper cables;

• Tow and tire chains;

• Bag of salt or cat litter;

• Tool kit.

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