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Spend a Lot of Time in Your Car for Work? Prepare Yourself and Your Car for Safe Winter Driving

Living and working in out state Minnesota often means driving in difficult winter conditions to get to your destination. Many jobs depend on the ability to travel, regardless of road conditions. Preparing in advance can often contribute to a safer outcome.

If your job requires that you be on the road in tough driving conditions, here are some tips from AAA and the Minnesota Safety Council to help make your travels safer:

  • Avoid driving when you are fatigued
  • Check your tires for proper inflation
  • Make sure your gas tank is full (or at least half full) to avoid gas line freeze-up
  • Don't warm up your car in the garage or any other enclosed space
  • Clean all snow and ice from your car before leaving, check to make sure your headlights and tail lights are clear
  • Avoid using cruise control while driving on slippery roads
  • Always wear your seatbelt
  • Check the weather report before you leave and delay your trip if necessary
  • Pack a winter survival kit (see below)

Driving on snow covered roads can be tricky, but can be safer if you follow a few simple tips:

  • Slow down; remember that everything (accelerating, stopping, turning) takes longer on snow covered roads.
  • Increase your safe following distance from three to four seconds to eight to ten seconds. This will allow more time and distance to slow down or stop if needed.
  • Know your car, especially your brakes. If you have an anti-lock brake system, apply steady pressure to the brake, and don't pump them.
  • Don't pass snow plows or sanding trucks, they have limited visibility and the road conditions in front of them are likely worse that those behind them.

If you do become stranded on the road, remember the following:

  • Stay with your vehicle, you will be easier to locate.
  • Place a brightly colored cloth at the top of a rolled up window.
  • Keep a dome light on at night if possible.
  • Check the exhaust pipe to make sure it is not clogged with snow.
  • Run your engine and heater sporadically, just long enough to take the chill off.

Pack a Winter Survival Kit for your Car

Keep your survival kit in your car and easily accessible should you need it in an emergency.

Below are some of the items that should be kept in your survival kit:

  • A metal bucket or coffee can
  • A small candle and matches or a disposable lighter
  • A brightly colored square of cloth (such as a bandana) to signal distress
  • A basic first aid kit
  • A large plastic garbage bag (to insulate feet, legs, torso)
  • High energy, non-perishable foods
  • A plastic whistle to alert rescuers to your location
  • A pencil and paper can be helpful if you need jot down information after an accident, or to leave a note if you have to leave your car
  • A plastic flashlight with spare batteries (reverse the batteries to avoid burn-out)

Other items that you can include extra mittens, hats, scarves, boots, a blanket or sleeping bag, jumper cables, shovel, bag of sand or salt, and tow cable/chain.

Before leaving your home or office, call ahead to make sure the party at your destination knows your travel plans, anticipated route and estimated time of arrival and make sure your cell phone is fully charged.

Finally, perhaps the best advice of all is to just stay home and avoid dangerous situations when road conditions deteriorate. Since that isn't always an option, keep these tips in mind to help get you back home safely!