Minnesota winters can make traveling difficult especially during the rush hour commute. Here are a few tips for driving in winter weather conditions.
If you do plan on traveling during a winter storm, make sure you are prepared. Before heading out on the road, remove the snow from all surfaces of your vehicle to ensure visibility while driving. Make sure your gas tank is full to avoid your tank freezing, and fill your tires with air to guarantee traction on snowy road surfaces.
Once on the road, it’s important to slow down, driving too fast is the main cause of accidents when driving in the winter. Make sure to keep your distance; it takes a lot longer to stop your vehicle when the roads are packed with snow and ice. If the driver in front of you has to stop abruptly and you are tailgating, you may cause a collision. This also means that you need to take extra time and precaution when braking and accelerating due to the reduced traction.
Be extra cautious on bridges and entrance or exit ramps, which are most likely to freeze first. Be aware of other drivers around you, remember to give snowplows plenty of room and don’t pass them.
If you do happen to get stuck in the snow, turn your wheels from side to side for added traction. If you get stranded make sure to stay in your car. Prepare in advance by keeping a safety kit in your vehicle. Refer to our earlier blog post for a list of items to carry when traveling during the winter months.
If your vehicle is equipped with a manual transmission, or one of the many automatic transmissions that allows manual gear changes, you can often use your transmission to your advantage. If you’re having a hard time moving or your wheels are spinning, shifting to a higher gear often helps gain traction to get you going. For planned stops, gradually downshifting as you apply the brakes can often slow you down quicker. You can get more vigorous with downshift to avoid an impending accident. In non-accident avoidance scenarios try to be gentle on the transmission, though, since brakes are always cheaper than transmission parts.
Most cars these days are equipped with traction control which does a great job of keeping you on the road and on the intended path of travel. However, there are situations where traction control can hinder your ability to move. If you find yourself stuck and needing to rock the car out of place, try turning off the traction control. Sometimes you need the tires to spin a little bit to get some traction.
Remember to take it slow, and use caution, weather patterns in Minnesota can change quickly. Being prepared and educating yourself on how to drive in the snow can help to make traveling in winter weather conditions easier and less stressful.