ST. PAUL — As Minnesotans drive into the depths of winter and another cold snap next week, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) is reminding motorists about important driving skills for winter road conditions and the important survival items to store in a vehicle in the case motorists become stranded during cold weather.
Winter Crash Facts
According to the DPS Office of Traffic Safety, during 2010–2012, there were a total of 68,686 crashes during the winter season (Dec-Feb.), accounting for 32 percent of the state’s total crashes.
In 2012, crashes on snow/icy road surfaces accounted for nearly 10,605 crashes resulting in 28 deaths and 3,081 injuries.
“While winter conditions make driving challenging, these crashes and resulting deaths and injuries can be prevented if we buckle up and drive at safe speeds,” says State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske.
Winter Driving Tips
Buckle up, and make sure child restraints are secured tight enough. It is recommended to have bulky winter coats and blankets on top of the child restraint harness, not beneath, to ensure harness restraints fit properly.
Drive at safe speeds according to road conditions, and allow plenty of travel time.
Increase safe stopping distance between vehicles.
Use extra precaution around snowplows — keep at least five car-lengths behind plows.
If skidding — ease foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
If vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply a steady firm pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump ABS brakes.
Clear snow and ice from vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals.
Headlights must be turned on when it is snowing or sleeting.
Do not use cruise control on snow/icy/wet roads.
Move over for emergency responders on the shoulder of the road — it’s the law.
Parents of teen drivers should make sure new motorists experience snow and ice driving in a safe environment, such as an empty parking lot.
Winter Survival Kit
The DPS Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division says motorists should equip their vehicles with a winter survival kit, including scraper/brush, small shovel, jumper cables and a bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction. Blanket(s), boots, warm clothing, a bright cloth to tie on an antenna or hang in the window to signal for help and flashlights are also important, as are high-energy foods such as chocolate or energy bars.
For weather-related road condition information, call 5-1-1 or visit www.511mn.org.
About the Minnesota Department Public Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) comprises 11 divisions where 2,100 employees operate programs in the areas of law enforcement, crime victim assistance, traffic safety, alcohol and gambling, emergency communications, fire safety, pipeline safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration and emergency management. DPS activity is anchored by three core principles: education, enforcement and prevention.
About the Office of Traffic Safety
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) designs, implements and coordinates federally funded traffic safety enforcement and education programs to improve driver behaviors and reduce the deaths and serious injuries that occur on Minnesota roads. OTS also administers state funds for the motorcycle safety program and for the child seats for needy families program.
OTS is an anchoring partner of the state’s Toward Zero Deaths (TZD) traffic safety initiative. A primary vision of the TZD program is to create a safe driving culture in Minnesota in which motorists support a goal of zero road fatalities by practicing and promoting safe and smart driving behavior. TZD focuses on the application of four strategic areas to reduce crashes — education, enforcement, engineering and emergency trauma response.
Office of Traffic Safety Highlights
• Preliminary crash reports indicate at least 380 people were killed in traffic crashes on Minnesota roads in 2012, up from 368 in 2011. Final crash facts will be issued in early summer.
• 2,551 motorists were arrested for DWI during a statewide DWI enforcement effort: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ooc/news-releases/Pages/December-Campaign-Results-in-2,551-DWI-Arrests-in-Minnesota.aspx.
• OTS is investing federal grants totaling more than $7 million to 317 law enforcement agencies and community partner groups for enforcement and education campaigns, Oct. 2012–Sept. 30, 2013.
• The 2011 Minnesota Motor Vehicle Crash Facts (https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/reports-statistics/Pages/crash-facts.aspx) report notes 368 traffic deaths for the year, the lowest since 1944 and a 44 percent reduction in deaths from a decade ago.
• More than 4,000 DWI offenders are using ignition interlock to benefit road safety and ensure legal, sober driving: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/programs/mn-ignition-interlock/Pages/default.aspx.
• OTS news archive: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/Pages/news.aspx