Motorist Cautioned As Winter Storm Nears

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 at 6:24 am

ST. PAUL — The Minnesota Departments of Public Safety (DPS) and Transportation (MnDOT) encourage motorists to use safe and smart driving practices as a major winter storm approaches. The agencies remind motorists to stay tuned to weather forecasts and, if traveling for the holiday, consider leaving early to avoid traveling in severe weather conditions.  For road conditions, construction and travel information, visit www.511mn.org or call 511.

DPS and MnDOT officials say Minnesotans should also consider finalizing last-minute holiday needs and pick up household items such as food and other necessities before the storm. If conditions become too severe, Minnesotans will be encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel.

DPS and MnDOT remind motorists to drive at safe speeds according to road conditions and keep a safe stopping distance between vehicles. Drivers are required by law to move over a lane for emergency responders on the shoulder of the road, and if they cannot move over, to reduce speeds.

MnDOT has more than 800 snowplows at 154 truck stations in Minnesota. There are 19 truck stations and 237 snowplows in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Motorists must use extra precautions when driving around snowplows by keeping at least five car-lengths between their vehicles and plows.

During 2006–2008 in Minnesota, officers reported snowy or icy road conditions in more than 45,000 crashes that resulted in 168 traffic deaths and 14,540 injuries.

Last year, three people were killed on Minnesota roads surrounding the Christmas travel period (Wed.–Sun.), in 2007, 11 people were killed in crashes. The Christmas holiday will be accompanied by enhanced, statewide DWI patrols that run throughout December.

DPS and MnDOT recommend the following for safe winter driving:
• Always use seat belts
• Adjust speed to road and weather conditions — lower speeds minimize crashes.
• Keep a safe stopping distance between vehicles, and leave extra room between your vehicle and       snow plows or other removal equipment.
• Accelerate and decelerate slowly on icy/snow-covered roads to retrain traction and avoid skids.
• Bridges and overpasses can be more slippery than other parts of the road. If skidding, motorists should remain calm, ease foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go. If vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply a steady firm pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump ABS brakes. Do not use cruise control on snow/icy/wet roads.
• Do not use cruise-control.
• Do not “power up” hills which may cause wheels to spin. Build momentum before reaching a hill and don’t stop while traveling uphill. Reduce speed going downhill.
• Know your brakes — keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of the foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
• Give yourself plenty of travel time — don’t put your schedule before safety.
• Clear snow and ice from vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals.
• Headlights must be turned on when it is snowing or sleeting.

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