In Minnesota, winter driving conditions can go from perfect to hazardous in a matter of minutes. Cold temperatures combined with ice and snow can make for difficult and dangerous commutes, so make sure you are prepared when the winter weather arrives this year. Here are a few driving tips to help you prepare for the cold and snowy months ahead.
Winter Survival Kit
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety recommends that all cars be equipped with a winter survival kit. According to the agency, "winter weather can kill an unprepared person who is exposed to the elements within minutes." In order to better prepare for unexpected roadside stops, drivers should always have first-aid kits, flashlights, blankets, warm clothing and food available in their cars. Kits can also include pencil, paper and candles. For more information about what a winter survival kit should include, visit the Minnesota Department of Public Safety website. The American Red Cross, Twin Cities Chapter also has winter survival tips on its website.
Winter Driving Courses
Minnesota Safety Council
The Minnesota Safety Council offers a winter driving course, which includes a DVD, PowerPoint Presentation and guide. The course is designed to help drivers learn proper following distances and skid control, as well as winter vehicle maintenance. Drivers will also learn the proper techniques for driving on inclines and braking at a safe and appropriate distance. For more information about the course, visit the website.
Check the Weather Before Leaving Home
During the winter months, it's always a good idea to check weather and road conditions before leaving home. If news programs are not available for this up-to-the-minute information, consider using smartphone apps such as My Radar or Weather.com. If you don't have a smartphone, look to the internet for information about potential storms, icy conditions or traffic backups. Weather.com and NOAA.org are great resources. Local news websites like minnesota.cbslocal.com often provide traffic information as well.
Safety Tips for Driving in Winter Weather
Driving in winter weather can always be tricky, but if you observe a few simple tips, you can help to improve safety conditions for yourself and for those around you. Be aware of black ice and always get a good feel for the roads before you take off at normal speeds. If the conditions are less than favorable, slow down and drive more slowly. In addition, make sure you always leave enough space between yourself and the car in front of you, and pump breaks if a quick stop is required. For more winter driving tips, visit safemotorist.com.
Be Aware of the Traffic on Your Route
In the Twin Cities, there are nearly always areas that are congested, even in the summer months. During the winter months, those same areas can be excruciatingly slow and even dangerous. Chances are you know those areas near you. Some of them may include the interchange at I-494 and US-169 or the interchange at I-35W and I-694, for example. If weather has been bad, consider taking an alternate route. Always give yourself enough time to reach your destination.
Kristyn Gansen is a freelance writer covering all things Minneapolis. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.
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