Winter is here - drive carefully to avoid crashes and injury
WORTHINGTON -- Travel is expected to become hazardous this morning, according to the National Weather Service, with blowing snow and anywhere from 3 to 5 inches of accumulation.
Normally this wouldn't be much of a shock in southwest Minnesota in January, but it has been an unusual winter. Normally people have had plenty of opportunity to practice their winter driving skills, but not this season.
"We've been really fortunate with a wonderful winter and good road conditions, but the downside is there's been no opportunity to relearn our winter skills," Worthington Police Sgt. Bill Bolt said. "Now we're being hit with what could be very dangerous weather which could result in hazardous road conditions that have the potential of severe injury or even death."
There are certain things motorists can do to lessen the chance of crashes caused by slippery roads, such as doubling the distance a driver would normally follow behind another vehicle or the braking distance.
"Most importantly," Boldt said, "Slow down, slow down, slow down."
There is no law against driving slow and safe, he said. Always pay attention to the vehicles around you, avoid braking quickly or making sudden directional changes. In the winter, this is even more important as reaction times and vehicle response are slower.
"Drive defensively and respectfully and let someone else go first at stop signs and intersections," Bolt encouraged. "Waiting a few moments could save you thousands of dollars in vehicle damage or prevent a possible injury."
Always make sure all windows, head lights and tail lights are cleared of snow and ice, and expect to be stopped by an officer and asked to clean your windows if it isn't done. Officer intent is not to hand out tickets, but to save lives, he said.
If authorities or meteorologists are recommending no travel, listen to them, Bolt implored.
When the roads are bad and you don't have to go out, don't go out. If you have to travel, make sure driver and passengers are dressed for the weather, with hats, gloves and coats.
Keep a survival kit in the vehicle and make sure that extra clothing, such as a heavier coat, boots and a blanket, is also available.
Wind chills can injure or kill quickly, so be aware of weather forecasts.
If a vehicle becomes stuck or breaks, down, stay with the car and call for help.
Do not try to walk to a nearby home or business. Always let someone know what your route and estimated time of arrival will be.
"Remember, not only do you endanger yourself if you become stranded, you also risk the lives of the men and women of law enforcement, fire departments and ambulance crews who have to come rescue you," Bolt said. "Every year, people don't take our advice, and unfortunately fall victim to the elements. It's a loss to families and communities."
Readers may reach Daily Globe reporter Justine Wettschreck at