In Minnesota, the winter weather can quickly become your worst enemy during any outdoor adventure if you find yourself unprepared and caught in a winter storm. Although summer is the biggest time of year for vacationing, there are many people in this state who enjoy traveling during the winter months to take part in many winter activities such as ice fishing, snowmobiling, or skiing. If you plan to travel to an area you are unfamiliar with, it may be a good idea to map out the area and check out the forecast prior to travel. This time of year the weather is unpredictable and can get ugly very quickly. Inexperienced drivers or those who are unfamiliar with the area can easily become distracted, get lost, and make poor decisions that will adversely affect other drivers. If you find yourself in this predicament, remain calm and pull your vehicle safely off the road. This will allow you to take a moment to get back on course, and let other drivers continue on without incident.
Winter storms can cause roads to become extremely dangerous for travel and the normal rush hour traffic can seem even more intolerable as road conditions worsen throughout the day. With daily commuters traveling to and from work, and school in session, there is always increased potential for accidents when impatient drivers are inattentive to what is going on around them. A driver should never attempt to pass another vehicle at an excessive speed, and then cut back in front of that same driver who is using caution. This not only causes the other driver to brake unexpectedly and perhaps start sliding, but debris from the road can be kicked up onto their windshield and make it more difficult to see clearly. Tailgating is always a bad idea regardless of the road condition. It is however, more dangerous when the roads are icy because reaction time is greatly reduced. Always maintain a safe distance behind another driver. Although your vehicle may be equipped to handle well in wintry conditions, the black ice on some roads is unforgiving to most vehicles. The road ahead may look fine, but it is possible that ice is lurking beneath a layer of sand or salt. If your vehicle has great traction and you don’t worry about the possibility that you may need to brake abruptly, just remember that ice reduces traction by 90 percent. Allowing extra reaction time may not get you to where you are heading as fast as you would like, but it will decrease the potential for an accident that is sure to cause a greater delay on the roads.
Whether you are bound for the North Shore or simply making your daily trip to work or school, there are many situations in which the weather can be hazardous and require you to use extreme caution. With unexpected large snow accumulation, high winds, blowing/drifting snow, and extreme temperatures, it can be a struggle to keep your car on the road to safely make it to your destination. In either case, when you see the warning for a winter weather advisory, prepare for the worst. If you don’t need to head out during the storm, don’t. If it is unavoidable, be sure that you are well prepared with safety gear such as extra clothing, blankets, scraper/brush, jumper cables, a flashlight, and a stash of foods such as chocolate or meal bars. Winter storm warnings are for your protection. If you desperately need to travel during a winter storm, please use extreme caution and be aware of these safety tips:
- Check the tire pressure and make sure the tread is in good condition
- Make sure you can see, test wiper blades, have plenty of fluid, get the snow off your car
- Be prepared with jumper cables in the event of a stalled vehicle
- Watch for patches of black ice, especially near bodies of water, bridges, overpasses, and high volume intersections
- Use lower gears, drive at slower speeds, increase your following distance
- Avoid travel in poor conditions when necessary
Roadside Emergency Tips
- Skidding – take your foot off the gas and turn the wheel in the direction you want to go
- Stranded – stay inside the vehicle, don’t walk for help, keep window cracked when vehicle is running
- Stuck in Snow – rock the car, move forward and back at least a foot to make an even path
- In a Ditch – make a call if you are able, stay with the vehicle and keep flashers on