Tips for safe winter driving

nWith the snowstorm expected to wreak havoc on the roads over the MLK Holiday weekend, there’s no better time to revisit a few winter driving tips.  The Minnesota Department of Transportation recommends that people stay off the roads as much as possible, but if you must travel, here are some safety reminders. 

Take precautions before driving

  • Clear snow and ice from vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals.
  • Drive with lights on for best visibility. The law requires drivers to turn on headlights when there is precipitation.
  • If the conditions are too poor, do not travel unless it is necessary.
  • If taking a trip, tell someone at your destination of your expected arrival time and your travel route.
  • Buckle Up: It’s the first line of defense in a crash.
  • Drive at safe speeds according to road conditions and give yourself plenty of travel time. Be patient, there will be traffic.
  • Increase stopping distance between vehicles.
  • Use extra precautions when driving near snowplows by keeping at least 10 car-lengths behind plows.
  • If skidding, remain calm, ease foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
  • Do not use cruise control on snowy, icy or wet roads.

Move over for flashing lights

  • Law enforcement, tow trucks and other emergency vehicles will be assisting motorists who are involved in crashes or become stranded.
  • Always look for flashing lights and move over at least one lane as soon as possible to protect yourself and those working on the side of the road. It’s the law! If you cannot move over, drivers are encouraged to at least slow down.

Winter survival kit

  • Winter weather can pose a deadly threat in mere minutes for any unprepared person exposed to the elements.
  • Drivers can become stranded for long periods of time anywhere, whether you’re in a well-populated or a rural area.
  • Stranded drivers should stay in their vehicle to take shelter from the elements.
  • Response from law enforcement may be delayed due to weather conditions, lack of cell phone service, or an increase in calls for help.
  • A winter survival kit should be kept in all vehicles in the event of spin outs and/or break downs. This kit should include the following items: boots, jackets, gloves, blankets, a cell phone charger, flashlight with spare batteries, bottled water and snacks, booster cables, basic tools, sand or cat litter, a red bandana, a pencil and paper.

Calling 911

  • If you become stranded and need to call 911, make sure you know your exact location, especially if you’re in an unfamiliar area.
  • Dispatchers can send help more quickly with a precise address, mile marker or cross street information.
  • Follow instructions; you may be told to stay where you are and wait for rescuers.
  • Drivers should not hang up until they know what will happen next.

The 511 traveler information system website and phone app provide road and driving conditions and include links to the National Weather Service. The system is available at or by dialing 511. Motorists can also download the free 511 app on their smartphones and other mobile devices.

For more winter driving info, go to or

— Information provided by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and MnDot