Don't drive like an idiot (and other things to remember when roads are icy)

Here are 4 things you should keep in mind while behind the wheel.
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It goes without saying, but we'll remind you anyway: When the roads are icy, don't drive like an idiot.

Well, you should never drive "like an idiot." But when it gets cold and snowy, and the roads turn slick, you really need to step up your driving game and be extra cautious.

Icy roads, blowing snow and freezing temperatures can be very dangerous, and law enforcement around the state are reminding people to drive carefully. (Wearing a seat belt and driving sober are a given.)

Here are some tips for safer winter driving:

First of all, clean the snow off your car

Before you even think about driving, brush the snow and ice off of your vehicle. Yes, this probably requires that you wake up a bit earlier in the morning, but it's a small price to pay for safety.

Make sure you get your windows, headlights, license plate, and roof.

Slow down – especially for emergency vehicles

It takes longer to slow down on icy roads – adjust your speed to the road conditions. Allow yourself extra time to get to your destination. Drive as slow as you need to stay safe.

If you like to go fast, relax a bit and remember not everyone is the same. As MnDOT's Kevin Gutknecht told us a couple years ago, slow drivers may be in a different situation than you, and they're driving to make sure they have control over their vehicle.

The Minnesota State Patrol is also reminding motorists to move over and slow down if you see emergency lights. A pick-up truck that was going too fast for the icy conditions on Interstate 35 almost hit a trooper last year.

The Chisago County Sheriff's Office posted the dash cam footage on Twitter, and wrote more about the incident here:

It was a close call that likely could have been avoided if the driver had slowed down.

Also, leave plenty of space

This is related to the speed tip above.

Driving too close to the car in front of you is dangerous. You want to be able to stop in time if the driver in front of you slams on their brakes.

If you're moving at a sensible pace and leaving plenty of room, you probably can.

"During snow and ice events, leaving plenty of room between vehicles can be the difference between hitting another vehicle or coming to a stop without incident," the Department of Public Safety says.

And even if it's not actively snowing, or there isn't ice on everything, the morning hours can be dangerous. Ice can form on overpasses and bridges overnight, MnDOT says, creating slick spots you wouldn't expect to hit.

Have an emergency kit

If something should happen and you end up in the ditch or get stranded in your vehicle, you'll be thankful to have an emergency kit. The Department of Public Safety says they hear horror stories every year about people who die after being stranded in their vehicles in very cold weather – which in many cases is preventable.

The department recommends these items for your kit: ice scraper/brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain, sand or cat litter (for tire traction), colored cloth (like a red bandana), blankets, flashlights, and energy bars.

For more, check out this list from AAA and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's website here.

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