Although the forecast only calls for a few inches of snow over most of Iowa this weekend, motorists haven’t had a lot of practice this year driving in winter weather, and frigid temperatures could make becoming stranded in a vehicle very dangerous. The Iowa Department of Transportation’s snow plows will be out spreading anti-icing chemicals and clearing roads where necessary. Motorists should use extra caution and follow these tips to drive more safely during winter weather.
Know before you go. If your trip cannot be postponed until the weather improves, log on to discover all the ways in which you can receive 24/7 Iowa travel information at http://511ia.org/.
Use your vehicle’s safety equipment. Make sure you and your passengers are wearing their seatbelts or are in a child safety seat. Your vehicle’s headlights are a valuable asset when driving in winter weather. Turn them on to see and be seen.
Fill your vehicle’s gas tank. Before traveling in winter weather, always keep your vehicle’s gas tank nearly full and make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition.
Never use cruise control during winter weather. Your vehicle’s cruise control sensors may not work properly if the tires are traveling on packed snow or ice. This can cause your vehicle to increase its speed, placing you at greater risk of getting involved in a crash.
Keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle. This kit should contain items to help sustain your life and the lives of your passengers should your vehicle become stranded. These items can include: booster cables, candles and matches, a flashlight with fresh batteries, extra blankets and warm clothes, nonperishable food items, a can for melting water, and a snow shovel. Sufficient supplies should be in the kit for all persons traveling in the vehicle. Carrying a mobile phone in your vehicle is also advised for use during an emergency.
Use caution when approaching or following a snowplow. Snowplows generally operate at much slower speeds than other traffic. Snowplows can be forced sideways when clearing hard-packed drifts and generate a “snow cloud” that may impair the vision of drivers in nearby vehicles. Remain a safe distance behind the snowplow, pass only when clear; and never continue to drive alongside a plow. Allow plenty of space when passing the snowplow because the wing of the plow blade extends out to the side of the truck. Do not cut back into the lane of traffic too closely in front of a snowplow truck because the blade also extends in front of the truck. Remember the slogans, “Ice and Snow …Take It Slow” and “Don’t crowd the plow.”