DPS issues winter safety reminder as major storm approaches

As a major snowstorm approaches Minnesota several Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) divisions are reminding Minnesotans about safety on the roads and in their homes.

Winter driving
The Minnesota State Patrol division reminds motorists to adapt driving skills to winter road conditions and be buckled up, patient and attentive behind the wheel.

Traffic crashes peak during the winter months, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Office of Traffic Safety. In 2011, preliminary data indicates that snow/icy road surfaces accounted for almost 17,000 crashes resulting in 52 deaths and 5,339 injuries. Of the 5,339 injuries, 121 were severe. The State Patrol is using the hash tag #mnstorm to update all Minnesotans on Twitter.

The Minnesota State Patrol advises motorists to:

  • Buckle up, and secure child restraints tightly. It is recommended to have bulky winter coats and blankets on top of the child restraint harness, not beneath, to ensure harness restraints fit properly.
  • Drive at safe speeds according to road conditions, and allow plenty of travel time.
  • Increase safe stopping distance between vehicles — at least three seconds.
  • Use extra precaution when driving around snowplows — keep at least five car-lengths behind plows.
  • If skidding, remain calm, ease foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
  • If vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply a steady firm pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump ABS brakes.
  • Clear snow and ice from vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals.
  • Headlights must be turned on when it is snowing or sleeting.
  • Do not use cruise control on snow/icy/wet roads.
  • Move over for emergency responders on the shoulder of the road — it’s the law.

Parents of teen drivers should make sure new motorists experience snow and ice driving in a safe environment, such as an empty parking lot.

Prepare for an Emergency
The DPS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEM) encourages motorists to equip their vehicles with a winter survival kit, including scraper/brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain and a bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction. Blanket(s), heavy boots, warm clothing and flashlights are also important, as are high-energy foods such as chocolate or energy bars.

HSEM is tracking the storm, staying in contact with the National Weather Service; regional coordinators are in touch with emergency managers across the state to monitor conditions. HSEM will coordinate any need for state resources as the storm progresses.