Pressing on a vehicle's brakes causes the tires to slow down, and eventually come to a stop. This is an expectation most drivers know very well, and they depend on it regularly. However, anyone who's familiar with winter driving in Minnesota knows that's not always the case. The majority of midwest drivers have a pretty clear memory of the first time they pressed their brake pedal and the car didn't react - I know I do. Follow these five winter driving safety tips to increase your odds of staying safe on the road.
5 Winter Driving Safety Tips
Staying safe on the roads looks a little different once the snow starts to fly. Your vehicle reacts differently when it's on snow and ice than it does in warmer and drier conditions. In addition to the following tips, keep a pulse on the weather conditions, plan for extra travel time, and don't hesitate to change or cancel plans if it means protecting the safety of yourself and your loved ones.
1. Stay a safe distance from other drivers.
When it comes to winter driving safety, space is your friend. If your vehicle, or a vehicle near you, begins to slip and slide, you'll be thankful for every inch of distance between your vehicle and others on the road. A spin-out or swerve is jarring enough, but if it ends in a collision, you'll have a much bigger mess on your hands.
2. When in doubt, slow down.
During less-than-ideal weather conditions, it's best to slow down and allow yourself extra time to get wherever it is you're going. Driving 10 or 15 mph under the speed limit will only affect your arrival time by four to seven minutes (unless you're going on a LONG car ride). That little bit of time probably isn't worth putting anyone in danger or risking an accident.
3. Know what to do when your car slides on the ice.
If you feel your vehicle sliding at all, it's your car telling you you're going too fast for the conditions. A vehicle sliding on the ice is not under control, and you need to stay calm and make choice to de-escalate the situation. The most important things to remember when your vehicle slides on the ice:
1. Don't press your brakes: this can cause more sliding.
2. Turn into the slide. If your rear tires slide right, slightly turn the wheel right.
3. Don't overcorrect: overcorrecting can prevent you from regaining control of the vehicle.
4. Keep a Winter emergency kit in your vehicle.
Keeping a few basic survival items in a winter emergency kit can help you stay safe and comfortable if you find yourself stuck or stranded. A basic kit could include small candles and matches, a red piece of fabric, a writing utensil, paper, and snacks. For a comprehensive list of winter survival kit items, see the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's suggestions.
5. Good tires are worth every penny.
Your vehicle's tires are responsible for keeping your vehicle gripped to the road. When tires are well-worn, they are less able to maintain a grip during wet, snowy, or icy conditions. Be sure to inspect the quality of your tires, checking the depth of the treads. If your tires show considerable wear, consider replacing them. Fall is the most popular time for new tires, and the peace-of-mind that comes along with quality tires is worth every penny.
Winter Driving in Minnesota
Following the above winter driving safety tips will help you stay safe out on the road this winter. Whether you're new to driving, new to driving during a Minnesota winter, or if you've been driving in snow for decades, these are simple, practical tips nearly anyone can benefit from. If you do go out in severe weather, be sure to tell a family member or friend where you are headed and stay in touch.
Looking for other safety related articles? Here is some additional information to keep you safe.
- 6 Driving Distractions That Cause Accidents and How To Avoid Them
- Video: How to Change a Tire Step By Step
- The Importance of Proper Tire Care
- Minnesota Driving Laws For Your Teen
- Video: How to Check Your Oil