Law of the month

November - State Patrol reminds drivers: prepare now for winter

Despite our recent weather reprieve, Wisconsinites know that winter is coming. Weather is one of the key factors why traffic crashes tend to peak in Wisconsin during the winter months. Last year, there were 26,774 crashes on snow/ice-covered roads in Wisconsin resulting in injuries to 5,646 people and 56 fatalities. The Wisconsin State Patrol’s November Law of the Month highlights steps drivers should take to prepare themselves and their vehicles to safely navigate the winter driving season.

Winter weather driving reminder

“A primary factor behind many crashes and slide-offs is drivers who are going too fast for conditions,” Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell said. “Stay off roads if possible during severe winter storms. If you must travel, be sure to remove all frost, ice or snow from vehicle windows, buckle up, watch your speed and allow plenty of following distance.”

Posted speed limits apply to ideal travel conditions. When weather or traffic volumes make driving more challenging, drivers are required to reduce their speed in order to maintain safe control of their vehicle. Things to keep in mind when roads become slippery:

  • Before your trip, check 511 for the latest on road conditions. Avoid driving during severe winter storms.
  • If you must travel, buckle up, slow down and stay alert. Avoid sudden braking or steering. Don’t use cruise control.
  • Don’t be overconfident if you have a four-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicle. All vehicles require additional time and distance to stop in slippery conditions.
  • Remember that bridge decks and overpasses tend to freeze up first.

Get your vehicle ready for winter

Make sure that your vehicle is prepared for the challenges ahead:

  • Check tire tread and inflation. Make sure your vehicle’s battery, charging system and all lights are operating properly and in good condition.
  • Keep a snowbrush/scraper in each vehicle, replace worn windshield wipers and have adequate washer fluid.
  • Keep your fuel tank at least half-full to help prevent fuel lines from freezing and provide necessary fuel should you become stranded.

“If your vehicle breaks down, or you slide off the road, it’s best to stay buckled up inside your vehicle until help arrives,” Superintendent Burrell said. “Your vehicle offers protection from the weather and from other vehicles that may also spin out of control.”

Pack your winter emergency kit

Some things to include in a winter emergency kit include:

  • warm clothing/blankets 
  • water and energy bars
  • flashlight
  • first-aid kit 
  • snowbrush/scraper
  • cell phone charger

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s website provides more tips on safe winter driving, things to consider should you become stranded, keeping your vehicle properly maintained and how to prepare an emergency winter travel kit.

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