Last Sunday’s monster snowstorm, which brought treacherous road conditions, should have been a good reminder to all of us in central Minnesota to take stock of the hazards of winter driving.
After last winter’s lack of snow, many of us have forgotten just how dangerous winter driving can be. It takes preparation and constant caution to be safe on winter roadways.
Here are 12 winter-driving tips that are highly recommended by all auto associations:
1. Make sure your vehicle gets a check-up. That should include the condition of all belts, fill-ups of anti-freeze solution and windshield-wiper fluid, proper air pressure in tires, good battery strength and all-around condition of the motor.
2. On slippery roads, always slow down and prepare to brake cautiously well ahead of any potential crisis. Pump the brakes gently to test the road surface. Do that especially when approaching intersections so your vehicle doesn’t slip and slide into the path of other vehicles.
3. When the vehicle starts to slip and slide, don’t slam on the brakes. Steer in the direction of the slide and pump the brakes gently.
4. If the weather turns nasty while driving and visibility decreases drastically, take the nearest exit and wait out the storm, if possible, in a cafe, a motel or even in your vehicle.
5. Always stay tuned to media weather forecasts, which means plan all trips – even local ones – with weather conditions added into your plans. If it’s not advisable to drive, don’t! If necessary, take the keys away from teenagers, many of whom seem to enjoy driving in blizzards.
6. Scrutinize your own driving habits. Driving while distracted, intoxicated, sleepy or unbuckled are always dangerous habits in whatever weather. They can be absolutely deadly on winter roads, especially if the roads are slippery or there are whiteout visibility problems.
7. Be courteous. Slow down, signal your turns, keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead, avoid rapid zigzag lane changes, slow down before stops. Never show “road rage.” By being a level-headed, courteous driver, you will set a good example.
8. When possible, avoid taking back roads. In some cases, those roads are the last to be plowed. And if you should go into a ditch, stay in your vehicle until help arrives.
9. Always fill up the gas tank before taking a trip – even local ones.
10. Bring along a fully charged cell phone, if possible.
11. Let others know where you are going and when you intend to return.
12. Last but not least, make a survival kit to carry in your trunk. It should contain a charged flashlight or flares, first-aid supplies, some change for phone calls, a bright-red cloth strip to tie to your antenna, candy bars or granola bars, Sterno-type heat canisters, candles, matches and books (especially puzzle books) to keep adults and children preoccupied during what could be very long waits. Along with the survival kit, take along a jug of water in the back seat and one or two heavy-duty blankets or sleeping bags to keep you warm if you become stranded.
Following all of those tips will make for a safe and sound winter for all motorists.