Ask a Trooper: Are you ready for approaching winter driving conditions?

Published 8:45 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

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Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson

Question: The first snow storm of the season seemed to catch a lot of us by surprise. Can you talk about what to do to be ready for winter travel? Thank you and be safe.

Troy Christianson

Answer: You are correct and it comes down to being prepared. While summer months are the deadliest on Minnesota roads, wintertime leads to the most crashes and poses safety risks and hazards.

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Here are some tips to help stay safe on the roads in the winter:

• Avoid unnecessary travel if conditions are too poor.

• Buckle up, and make sure child restraints are secured tightly. It is recommended to use bulky clothes 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 provide for plenty of travel time.

• Increase safe stopping distance between vehicles.

• Use extra precautions when driving around snowplows by keeping 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, apply a steady firm pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump anti-lock 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-covered, icy or wet roads.

• Equip vehicles with a scraper and brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain, and a bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction. Blankets, heavy boots, warm clothing and flashlights are also important, as are storing high-energy foods such as chocolate or energy bars.

• Be sure cell phones are charged for long trips, and inform family of destination plans and schedule.

• If stranded, stay in the vehicle.

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

• For weather-related road condition information, call 5-1-1 or visit

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848; or reach him at

Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.