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Winter driving: Here are 4 of the safest things you can do on the road

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It's snow season, which means we all have to re-remember how to drive with other people on the road in the winter.

Here are four of the safest things you can do while driving on ice and snow, as explained to BringMeTheNews by a couple of the state's road experts.

1. Go as slowly as you need to – not fast

Some people say driving too slowly can also be dangerous, since it may force motorists going a faster speed to suddenly stop and cause an accident.

"You're not going to get me to say that driving slowly is dangerous," Kevin Gutknecht with MnDOT told BringMeTheNews. He said slow drivers may be in a different situation than you, and they're driving to make sure they have control over their vehicle.

"To avoid crashes, slow down, be patient and plan ahead," the Minnesota Department of Public Safety says.

If you're driving too fast, you may not have time to avoid a car in front of you – or hit a slippery spot, lose control and wind up in a ditch.

The road conditions aren't the same as back in July, so you should reassess how you're driving, Gutknecht says.

2. Leave lots of space between you and the next car

Driving too close to the car in front of you is dangerous.

Gutknecht's keys to success: Are you in control? Which means, can you stop in time if the driver in front of you slams on the brakes? If you're going slowly, 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. If you've got enough room in front of you, you can avoid crashing into another vehicle when that happens.

3. Don't peephole drive (aka 'Clean off your car')

Not clearing snow, ice and frost off your windows (and peering through a small, open peephole) is illegal and can lead to an obscured driving citation.

Having snow matted to half your windows means you might not see something (or someone), which can lead to a crash, the Department of Public Safety says. So before driving, clear off all windows.

Also wipe your headlights and brake lights – not only can you not see if they're covered, but then people can't see you, Gutknecht said. Headlights must be on if it's snowing or sleeting, DPS notes.

4. Pay attention

It may sound simple, but focus on driving.

Don't be on your phone texting or calling someone, don't try to change your music, and don't worry about any other distractions, the Department of Public Safety says. Distracted drivers are in more danger since they "have less reaction time when facing an unexpected obstruction on the road."

Extras

– Last winter, the State Patrol responded to 16,507 crashes (that's from Nov. 1, 2014, through March 2, 2015), with 6,005 vehicle spinouts or "off the roadway" incidents. Of the crashes:

  • 14,241 resulted in only property damage.
  • 2,172 involved at least one injury.
  • 42 involved at least one person with a serious injury.
  • 52 resulted in at least one person being killed.

– Gutknecht said bad tires can be dangerous – good tires will help you avoid those tire-spinning moments at a stop sign.

– Don't drink and drive. DPS says no matter the season, it's a bad idea. But there will also be extra DWI patrols from now through Jan. 2.

– DPS has more winter driving tips here.

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