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Snowed-in Drivers: Dig Out Your Exhaust Pipe First

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Further tragedies have been striking in the aftermath of last weekend’s massive snow storm as people are starting up their snow-encased cars, only to have the car’s cabin fill with deadly carbon monoxide.

In Brooklyn, one man was killed while charging his phone in his car after digging a path to the door. A passing snowplow reburied the driver’s side door, and he was unable to escape. Also, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a man faced a similar fate when snow blocked his car’s exhaust pipe, causing the fumes to back up into the passenger compartment. However, perhaps the greatest tragedy was the death of a mother and her two children who stayed in the car while the father worked to shovel snow away from the vehicle. Again, the tail pipe was blocked, and carbon monoxide filled the cabin of the vehicle.

These cases are especially tragic because, in a fully-functional exhaust system, typically a blocked tailpipe will just cause exhaust fumes to back up into the engine and stall it. However, if there is any sort of leak (which is fairly common in areas which see a lot of snow and salt on the roads), carbon monoxide gas could escape and enter the car through holes in the body, open windows or doors, or simply faulty seals.

So, before you or your family sit in your running, snowed-in car to warm up, make sure you always do one thing first: dig out the car’s tailpipe.

News Sources: New York Post6 ABC, The New York TimesIowa State University