Ask a Trooper: What are some safety tips for winter driving?

The State Patrol reminds Minnesota drivers they must always turn on headlights when driving in snow or sleet. Troopers will pull over vehicles driving without headlights during winter storms.

Ask a Trooper: What are some safety tips for winter driving?

Question:  Can you provide some winter driving safety tips?

Answer:  Driving on the highway during the winter months requires more attention than ever. While summer months are the deadliest on Minnesota roads, wintertime leads to the most crashes and poses safety risks and hazards. 

Here are some winter driving tips:

- Avoid unnecessary travel if conditions are too poor.

- Buckle up, and make sure child restraints are secured tight. It is recommended to use bulky clothes 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 provide for plenty of travel time.

- Increase safe stopping distance between vehicles. 

- Use extra precautions when driving around snowplows by keeping at least five car-lengths behind plows.

- If skidding, remain calm, 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.  Conditions can change over every hill and around every curve.  Be very aware of bridge decks and overpasses.

- Equip vehicles with a 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 storing high-energy foods such as chocolate or energy bars.

- Be sure cell phones are charged for long trips, and inform family of destination plans and schedule.  

- If stranded, stay in the vehicle.

- Parents of teen drivers should make sure new motorists experience snow and ice driving in a safe environment, such as an empty parking lot. 

- For weather-related road condition information, call 5-1-1 or visit www.511mn.org.  

Sgt. Neil Dickenson is Minnesota State Patrol Public Information Officer for the state’s northeast region. Send questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues to neil.dickenson@state.mn.us or by mail to Minnesota State Patrol, 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth MN 55811. Follow Dickenson on Twitter at @MSPPIO_NE. 

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