Driving in MinneSNOWta

You’re afraid to drive on winter roads? Where did you grow up?”


“That’s embarrassing!” (Reality: It’s not; it’s normal).

Whether you’re from Minnesota or moved here from out-of-state, winter driving will always be a challenge.

Many people think, including Minnesotans, that Minnesota drivers are pros behind the wheel at this time of year. However, we could all benefit and improve our driving by brushing up on how to keep ourselves, as well as other drivers, safe on slippery roads.

FACTOID: According to the Minnesota Office of Public Safety, 395 people were killed on Minnesota Roads in 2012, up 7 percent from 2011 (unsafe speeds being a contributing factor).

Here is a list of IMPORTANT tips and safety precautions that drivers should know before driving on snowy roads.

  • In Minnesota, call 511 for road and travel conditions.
  • Clear all snow and ice from windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals. The last thing you need is to be startled by a chunk of ice flying from your car.
  • Headlights should always be on when driving in snow, sleet, rain or fog.
  • DO NOT USE CRUISE CONTROL when driving on winter road conditions.
  • Drive at safe speeds and provide for plenty of travel time.
  • Beware of black ice – a thin sheet of transparent ice that forms when light rain or drizzle falls on a frozen road surface (visual warning signs include ice on windshield wipers or visible on trees). This makes driving, cycling or walking on affected surfaces extremely dangerous. Be especially cautious of black ice on bridges and overpasses.
  • Four-wheel-drive vehicles may provide better traction in the snow but they don’t stop any better on icy or slippery roads than a two-wheel drive vehicle.
  • Increase the 3-second distance rule to 7, 8, 9 or even 20 seconds… whatever makes you feel safe… to allow distance for reacting to slippery roads, correcting and/or stopping
  • If skidding, keep calm; remove your foot off the gas and steer in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go (AWAY FROM ONCOMING TRAFFIC).
  • Be sure to have cell phones charged for long trips. If stranded, remain in your car to avoid getting hit by another car. Call for help
  • And most importantly… 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. Winter driving kits should include high energy foods such as chocolate or energy bars.

– Kassie Hanson

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