Minnesota is no stranger to cold temperatures, heavy snow and icy roads. If you and your family are traveling this winter, here are some tips to stay safe during your trip.
Before you go
Pack a winter survival kit. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety recommends keeping the following items in your car at all times during the winter months:
- Metal coffee can, candles and matches to melt snow for drinking water
- Brightly-colored bandana or fabric and/or a whistle to alert others of your location
- Paper and writing utensils, or games to keep kids occupied
- First-aid kit
- Battery-powered or crank-powered light; remember to replace batteries yearly
- Large plastic bags and safety pins to keep your feet dry and insulated
- Snacks such as energy bars or other non-perishable foods
When possible, drivers should also make room in their vehicles for a shovel, extra warm clothes, jumper cables, tow chains, blanket or sleeping bag and a container of sand, salt, or cat litter for traction.
Before you go, completely clean off all of your windows of snow and ice before you drive.
Dial 511, visit www.511mn.org, or download MN DOT’s 511 app to your smart phone to check road conditions in advance, and always call ahead to your destination so someone knows when to expect you.
On the road
Keeping your family safe while on the road in icy and wet conditions takes a little extra planning. The Minnesota Department of Transportation recommends the following tips when you’re behind the wheel:
- Turn on your headlights and always wear your seatbelt.
- Turn off your cruise control; if you hit a patch of ice, your cruise control will cause your wheels to spin faster, putting you in higher danger of losing control of your vehicle.
- Stay at least five car lengths behind the vehicle in front of you.
- Be aware of snow plows; they turn frequently, sometimes with little or no warning.
- Be comfortable with your vehicle’s braking system. Never pump anti-lock brakes; instead, apply firm pressure and steer in the direction you want to go.
- Using a lower gear can help slow your car down.
- Make turns as square as possible; reducing the length of the arc on turns can prevent your car from sliding around corners
If you get stranded, don’t panic. Stay with your car and don’t keep it running if your exhaust pipe isn’t completely clear of snow. If you do keep the car running, open a window slightly to reduce your family’s risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
At your destination:
As you and your family get out of the car, be aware of traffic passing nearby and be aware of the conditions under your feet. Assume there’s ice underneath the snow and take precautions so you don’t fall.
- Point your feet out slightly like a penguin to increase your center of gravity
- Bend your legs and walk flat-footed
- Keep your hands out of your pockets; your arms can be used to help keep your balance
- If you do fall, try landing on your side or bottom and don’t brace your fall with your knees, wrists, or neck; relax your muscles as you fall to reduce injury
If you’re planning on going on frozen water, please stay safe and understand the conditions of the ice. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has great tips on what to consider if you’re headed out on the lakes.
Other winter driving resources: