Friday, November 18: Winter Driving
Everyone should be cautious about traveling in extreme winter weather. Cold, snow and ice are demanding on cars, drivers and passengers. Most importantly, extreme winter weather can threaten your life.
Winter Safety Checklist: Winter Safety Checklist - Winter Travel (PDF)
Winter Survival Kits for Your Vehicle
Each year, hundreds of Minnesotans find themselves stranded on the roadside. Winter weather can kill in mere minutes if an unprepared person exposed to the elements.
Safe travel reminders:
- Avoid unnecessary travel
- If you must - leave early and allow time
- slow down and drive for road conditions
- Increase your following distance
- Put away distractions
- Headlights on
- Buckle up
Fact Sheet: Winter Survival in Your Car
Protect Yourself from Snow Squalls
If a Snow Squall Warning is issued, delay travel. If you are already driving, safely exit the road at the next opportunity.
If you cannot exit the road in time:
- Slow Down, but avoid slamming the brakes.
- Turn on your lights (low-bean headlights and hazards.
- Pull over safely to the side of the road, and remain in the vehicle with your seatbelt on.
Dialing 911 on a Cell Phone
A cell phone is a valuable tool for drivers who witness, or are involved in, emergency situations. Cell phone users on the road must provide dispatchers with specific information about the emergency.
Cellular 911 calls are routed to public safety answering points operated by state or local agencies. Although newer cell phones now provide approximate location or have GPS and callback numbers when 911 is dialed, an exact location may need to be provided by the caller.
511 Information System
The 511 Phone Information System provides road safety information 24 hours per day. Landline and cell phone users can call 511 for regional and statewide reports on traffic congestion, road and weather conditions, construction work and other obstacles.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation's (MnDOT) website features both a dial-up/static site and a high-speed Internet/Google map site with real-time updates. You may also sign up for the Metro Twitter account, which will alert you to any incidents within the Metro area.
Did you know 70% of snow and ice-related injuries occur in automobiles? This is why it is vital to know the weather and road conditions before traveling using the 511 Website and the National Weather Service Website.
Why do bridges freeze first?
- No ground underneath means the entire structure can be surrounded by cold air.
- Freezing isn't uniform: shaded parts can be icy while sunny parts aren't.
Slow down before the bridge, as changing speed on ice is dangerous.
The MnDOT snowplow operators are trained, experienced and prepared to assist motorists through another winter season.
Last year in Minnesota, there were 72 crashes involving vehicles that hit snowplows. This is typically caused by inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow or motorists driving too fast for conditions.
Operators have much to monitor and control, and their ability to see behind them is limited by side mirrors. Their vision can also be hampered by the snow clouds they create while plowing.
When approaching snowplow drivers:
- Be patient
- Stay back
- Stay alert
- Slow down
Safe driving means:
- Check road conditions on the 511 Website or call 511; it takes time to get roads back to good driving conditions.
- Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
- Stay back at least five car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud. Snowplow operators will pull over when it is safe to do so to allow traffic build-up to pass.
- Stay alert for snowplows that turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They may also travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to further improve road conditions.
- Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions, and give yourself plenty of travel time. Snowplows typically move at slower speeds.
- Buckle up and ensure children are properly secured in the correct child restraint.
- Avoid unnecessary travel if road conditions are too poor.