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Monday, November 9, 2020

Winter Driving Tips

A guest post by Bob Swenson, Director of Advance Driving Skills at the Minnesota Highway Safety and Research Center

Greetings from the desk of a retired police officer of 28 years. I also taught for the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center for nine years and am currently the Director of Advance Driving Skills at the Minnesota Highway Safety and Research Center

I’d like to share some all-year — and especially winter — driving tips.

First lesson: no one is exempt from the laws of physics. 

I could tell you stories of personal experience and what I’ve witnessed. If you’ve been in a squad car for a couple winters, you’ve seen what a lack of attention — or failing to slow down for the conditions — can lead to. 

Guest author Bob Swenson
In late October we saw 7 inches of snow at Hazel Lake (north of Staples), an early taste of winter. Already I have driven through fresh slushy snow to get to the well-maintained county road. I did some “research” with the traction control, electronic stability control, and anti-lock braking system. I was reacquainted with winter driving conditions.

Things to remember in your 360-degree environment:

  1. Drive smart — never ignore road and weather conditions. Your number one priority is to get from point A to point B without crashing or leaving the roadway. Speed kills.
  2. Keep your vision up and scan out every 12-15 seconds to spot changing conditions. Traffic, road, and weather conditions can change quickly. Reduced lighting changes your perspective. Always be looking for a safe escape path. Play the “what if” game. 
  3. Do not forget to turn your head. Scan intersections early and often.
  4. Leave room around you to maneuver. At least 3 seconds of following distance is needed on a good day. More following distance is needed for poor weather, heavier traffic, and low light.
  5. Friction is finite. Keep friction, keep control. Slow down early. Speed up slowly.
  6. Modern technology is an assistant, not to be relied on to make up for you being in a hurry.
  7. Practice your driving on compromised friction. Use a parking lot or snowy road.  Feel what electronic stability control can do for you. Use your anti-lock braking system on both good and reduced friction. Try the traction control. You do not want to be surprised by how your vehicle reacts. 
  8. If you get stuck, you may be able to get moving again by turning off the traction control and rocking the vehicle out.
  9. Cut out distractions. That split second when you take your eyes and/or mind off your driving can be deadly. Driving is a priority. Slowing down is a must. Use the radio instead of the computer or text.
  10. Tires: make sure you have appropriate tires with good tread. Part of the friction equation includes decent tires.
Second lesson learned: No one is exempt from the laws of physics. 

Up next: A resource for traumatized children

Be safe and serve well,
Bob

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