GENERAL WINTER DRIVING PREPARATIONS:
- Watch weather reports before driving long-distances. If you must leave, let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.
- Keep at least a half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle at all times.
- Make sure your vehicle has been serviced and that the battery, charging system, antifreeze, belts and oil are all ready for the winter. Don’t forget to check your windshield wipers and fill your washer fluid reservoir too.
- Have a substantial snow brush and ice scrapper in your vehicle.
- Pack a winter survival kit, including a cell phone charger, to keep in your car in case you get stranded.
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
- Do not use cruise control when driving in snowy or wet conditions.
- Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
- The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
- Know your brakes. If you have anti-lock brakes (ABS) and need to slow down quickly, press hard on the pedal-it’s normal for the pedal to vibrate a bit when the ABS is activated. In cars without ABS, use “threshold” breaking, keeping your heel on the floorboard and using the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
- Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
- If you become snow-bound, STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you.
- Don’t try to walk in a severe storm as it is hard to loose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.
- Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or place a cloth at the top of a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. The dome light only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.
- Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment with the engine running.
- Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold.
- If possible run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill and to conserve gasoline.
Winter Car Survival Kit Suggestions:
- Booster cables
- Two or more blankets
- Snow shovel and scraper
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Extra clothing: cap, mittens, parka and overshoes or boots in case you have to walk for help.
- High calorie, non-perishable food like candy and canned nuts.
- Sand or gritty cat litter to use for traction.
- Extra windshield washer fluid and antifreeze
- Flares or reflectors
- Cloth/paper towels
- Piece of bright cloth
- Cell phone chargers
- Book or something to read to keep your mind occupied until you can be rescued.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s snowplow operators are trained, experienced and prepared to assist motorists through another winter season.
Last year in Minnesota, there were 72 crashes involving vehicles that hit snowplows. This is typically caused by inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow or motorists driving too fast for conditions.
Operators have much to monitor and control, and their ability to see behind them is limited by side mirrors. Their vision can also be hampered by the snow clouds they create while plowing.
Safe driving means:
- Check road conditions at www.511mn.org or call 511; it takes time to get roads back to good driving conditions.
- Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
- Stay back at least five car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud. Snowplow operators will pull over when it is safe to do so to allow traffic build-up to pass.
- Stay alert for snowplows that turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They may also travel over center-lines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.
- Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions, and give yourself plenty of travel time. Snowplows typically move at slower speeds.
- Buckle up and ensure children are properly secured in the correct child restraint.
- Avoid unnecessary travel if road conditions are too poor.