Drive Deliberately! Good Tips for Winter Driving

Kyle Roder

Safe driving behaviors and practices often begin at home. National studies show that teenage drivers learn their driving behaviors from their parents well before formal driver’s education classes. Parents must lead by example to show young drivers how to drive and not simply lecture them on how they should drive. 

Additionally, parents and young drivers must not rely sole on the information learned through a driver’s education course and the practice gained through the minimal “behind the wheel” time. According to safercar.gov, most vehicle crashes involving teen drivers are a result of “limited driving experience and immaturity” behind the wheel. Driver’s education is the minimal training needed to obtain a driver’s license. However, to fully understand the rules of the road and to be proficient in the complexities of driving, drivers must repeatedly practice in all traffic, lighting, and weather conditions. 

Weather conditions in Wisconsin change often. Each year the Eau Claire Police Department responds to dozens of crashes as a result of drivers not preparing themselves for driving in snowy or icy conditions. To a new driver who has never experienced winter driving, this is especially concerning. Here are six tips to help any driver, experienced or inexperienced, safely navigate the roads when the snow falls:

1. Keep it under control

Speed limits are set for perfect weather conditions. When it is snowing, icy, or wet, drivers must travel at a speed conducive to controlling their vehicle no matter what the sign reads.

2. Stop gradually

Stopping distance is greatly increased on snow-covered, icy, or wet roads. To stop safely, drivers should gently apply the vehicle’s brakes leading up to stop signs and traffic lights. It is also important to leave additional space between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead.

3. Turn carefully

Turning on winter roads can be difficult. On icy roads, vehicles tend to continue in the direction of their momentum rather than in the direction of their intention. Drivers must plan for turns by slowing down and carefully applying the brakes while turning.

4. Respect the plow

Snowplows are the “king of the road” during the winter. By law, drivers must stay back at least 500 feet to allow snowplows and salt trucks to work. Remember these are the vehicles that are making the roads safe for us – show them some respect by giving them some room.

5. Take another route

An unplowed road is typically the easiest place for vehicles to get stuck, especially in freshly blanketed snow. If possible, use an alternate route when approaching a road that hasn’t been serviced. The inconvenience of losing precious time by taking an alternate route greatly outweighs the inconvenience of being stuck.

6. Slow down and move over

Any time of year, drivers must slow down and move over for emergency vehicles including police, fire, EMS, and tow trucks. Each of these professions face heightened risk on the roads in the winter while tending to crashes and vehicle slide-ins. Help to keep them safe by giving them a brake and moving over whenever possible.

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