Snow and cold weather can make driving conditions more difficult, and the first few snowfalls of the year often catch motorists unprepared.

Most of Minnesota now has at least a dusting, if not multiple inches, of snow. The snow, coupled with the high winds and cold weather that is coming through, can be a recipe for disaster on the roadways because together they create risky driving situations including low visibility, drifting and blowing snow, and slick roads. AAA Minnesota-Iowa is advising motorists to allow extra time to get to a travel destination, monitor weather conditions, and follow advice from authorities. If it is not safe and you don’t have to travel, don’t drive.

Defensive Driving

When taking to the road during winter weather, remember to drive with caution to help maintain your safety as well as that of passengers, fellow motorists, and roadside workers. AAA recommends the following tips for winter driving:

• Before starting out in snowy weather, take time to remove the snow from the entire car so it doesn’t blow onto your windshield or the windshields of other drivers. Make sure your mirrors and lights are clean and clear.

• Go slow in snow. Posted speeds are for ideal conditions.

• Watch for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, even when the rest of the road seems to be in good condition.

• Look farther ahead in traffic. Actions by other drivers will alert you to problems and give you extra seconds to react.

• When changing lanes, avoid cutting in front of trucks, which need more time and distance than passenger vehicles to stop.

• Don’t use cruise control when roads are wet, snowy, or icy.

• Remember that four-wheel drive helps you get going quicker, but it won’t help you stop any faster.

• In the event of a skid, ease off the accelerator and don’t lock the brakes. Carefully steer in the direction you want the vehicle to go and straighten the wheel as soon as the car begins to go in the desired direction.

Proper Preparation

Preparing for frigid weather conditions will help keep your vehicle on the road, advises AAA. Motorists can help keep their vehicles on the road by ensuring scheduled maintenance is completed. A routine inspection of battery, brakes, belts, hoses, oil, fluids, tires, and other vehicle systems can help prevent inconvenient and costly break downs.

AAA also recommends motorists keep emergency supplies in the vehicle, including a cell phone, boots, gloves, blanket, an alternate heat source, shovel, and first aid kit. If stranded, stay with the vehicle. If the engine starts, run it only long enough to keep warm. Make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow. 

It’s also advised to keep the fuel tank at least half-full to avoid fuel-line freeze-up and to provide extra fuel for running the engine if stranded.

If you encounter an emergency vehicle with flashing lights along the road, slow down well in advance and carefully move over one lane, if available. Slipper roads make for dangerous conditions for those helping other motorists on the roadside.

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