Winter driving safety tips to remember

LAKE COUNTY — Michigan drivers are all too familiar with the dangers of driving in hazardous winter conditions. Ice, snow, slush, wind and below-freezing temperatures make winter driving a difficult task.

With likely three or more months of winter driving ahead, there are safety tips to be mindful of to keep driving dangers minimal.

“When weather conditions are bad, drivers need to slow down and make sure they leave plenty of time to get to their destination so they aren’t rushed,” said Lake County Undersheriff Wesley Bierling. “Drivers also need to provide plenty of room between vehicles.”

He also emphasized the importance of making sure vehicle equipment is in good condition for the winter.

“You not only want good tires for winter driving, but also good tread depth, not worn out. I recommend people research what tires work best for the year or model of their car,” he said.

“When the weather is downright nasty, stay home,” Bierling added. “Stay stocked up on provisions such as groceries and other essentials so you don’t have to leave the house during winter storms.”

The Michigan Department of Transportation offers the following winter driving safety tips in “Keys to Winter Driving,” on their website.

n Always wear a seat belt and make sure children are buckled properly.

n Give snowplow drivers room to plow, salt and sand the roads.

n Be extra careful on bridges, which can be icy even when roads are dry.

n Accelerate and brake slowly. Avoid abrupt steering maneuvers, particularly when changing lanes or merging.

n Don’t pump anti-lock brakes and don’t use cruise control when roads are icy.

n Don’t text or talk while driving.

n Salt can be ineffective when temperatures get down into the teens, and thus icy conditions can begin to develop. If slush is thrown to the side of the wheels of passing vehicles and is splashing, the salt is still working. If the slush stiffens and is thrown directly behind the vehicles, the salt is losing effectiveness.

Other things to remember are intersections can often be slick and ice-covered even if they appear to be only slightly wet. This is caused by moisture emitting from the exhaust of cars waiting at the intersection. The moisture quickly freezes on the pavement. Motorists should allow no less than a car-length in front of their vehicle when stopped behind other vehicles at intersections. This margin of safety allows drivers to pull forward if an approaching vehicle begins to slide.

If a vehicle starts sliding on snow or ice, a driver should take their foot off the gas and do not hit the brakes. If the vehicle begins to skid, do not brake. Instead, steer the vehicle in the desired direction. If brakes must be used, in anti-lock breaking system vehicles, use firm but steady pressure without pumping, and if a vehicle is not equipped with ABS, gently pump the brake pedal without locking the brakes.

Make sure antifreeze is at the proper level, and keep an extra bottle of washer solvent in the vehicle. Check air pressure for tires monthly using an accurate pressure gauge.

In case of emergencies, items such as extra winter clothing, a flashlight with good batteries, small shovel, blankets, first-aid supplies, drinking water and snacks, small candles and matches, and a charged cell-phone, should be kept in a car.

During bad weather, let others know expected route of travel and expected time of arrival.