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Preparation and caution can help you get where you’re going

Dec. 17, 2018

Two snow plows and other vehicles on a slushy, snow-lined road

We often associate this time of year with lovely blankets of freshly fallen snow. But the fact is that we could be in for three or four more months of the white stuff. That’s why now is the perfect opportunity to prepare yourself and your car for winter driving.

But first, the numbers. Over the past five years (2013-2017), law enforcement officers in Minnesota reported snowy or icy road conditions in over 82,500 crashes. As a result of those crashes, 220 people died, and 22,487 were injured. So as you can see, winter weather is definitely a factor in road safety here in Minnesota.

What can you do about it? Be prepared.

Start by making sure your car is well-stocked with the emergency items you’ll need in winter weather. Here’s a list to start from:

  • Scraper and brush
  • Small shovel
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow chain
  • Sand or cat litter (for traction)
  • Blankets and warm clothing
  • Heavy boots
  • Flashlights
  • Food and bottled water

Next, make sure your car is ready. Get a tune-up and make sure you’re not driving on bald tires. Before you leave, check the weather; if the roads are bad, consider cancelling your plans unless absolutely necessary.

If you do decide to go, notify someone at your destination what time you expect to get there and what route you’ll be taking. That way if something goes wrong and you can’t call for help, others will know where to start looking for you. Next, clear all the snow and ice from your car’s windows, hood, headlights, brake lights, and turn signals. In bad weather, it’s important to both see and be seen. Your lights help both of those things happen (in fact, it’s against the law to drive without your headlights on in any kind of precipitation).

Once you’re out on the road, drive at a speed that’s safe for the road conditions. Remember that this might be quite a bit slower than the posted speed limit. Give yourself plenty of distance to stop, and at least five car-lengths behind snowplows. If you find yourself skidding, turn the steering wheel in the direction you want to go, and avoid pumping your anti-lock brakes.

For the most part, the point of traveling is to get where you’re going. And with a healthy dose of caution and some advance preparation, you can do so safely, winter weather or no.