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Our best tips for driving in snow and ice

Feb. 27, 2017

Photo of a snowplow working in front of a vehicle.
Photo: We all hope winter is over, but in case it’s not, take a moment to brush up on your winter driving skills. Knowing how to drive properly in snow and ice can save lives.​

Whether you got hit by last week’s blizzard or not, we can all agree that winter isn’t over here in Minnesota. That’s why the end of February is a great time to brush up on our winter driving skills – especially because we haven’t had to use them much lately.

And if you think that, as Minnesotan drivers, we’re immune to the effects of snow and ice, think again: from 2013 to 2015, law enforcement reported 55,000 crashes where snowy or icy road conditions were a factor. Those crashes resulted in 149 deaths and 15,505 injuries.

So how do you avoid becoming part of those statistics? For starters, equip your vehicle properly: Make sure you have emergency items such as scraper/brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain and a bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction. Blanket(s), heavy boots, warm clothing and flashlights are also important, as are food and bottled water in case you get stranded. It’s much better to have all these things and not need them than need them and not have them.

Next, take a look at our top tips for driving in snow and ice and keep them in mind as you head out into the cold:

  • Give yourself plenty of travel time so that you can drive at safe speeds according to road conditions. Be patient; there will be traffic.
  • Increase stopping distance between vehicles.
  • Keep at least five car lengths behind snowplows.
  • If you skid, remain calm. Ease your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
  • If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply a steady, firm pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump ABS brakes.
  • If it’s snowing—even if it’s daytime—turn on your headlights. It’s the law!
  • Don’t use cruise control on snowy, icy or wet roads.
  • Move over for flashing lights. Law enforcement, tow trucks and other emergency vehicles will be assisting motorists who are involved in crashes or become stranded. Always look for flashing lights and move over at least one lane as soon as possible to protect yourself and those working on the side of the road. If you cannot move over, slow down.

The Minnesota State Patrol’s Winter Driving Advice video has even more great tips for driving safely in snowy and icy conditions. And this Winter Safety Checklist has everything you need to remember about how to prepare your vehicle, what to do before and while you drive, and how to deal with being stranded. Check them out, share them, and remember them – they could save lives.