Reminders for safe winter driving

Reminders for safe winter driving With winter weather approaching, the South Dakota Highway Patrol and the South Dakota Department of Transportation urge drivers to use caution while traveling.

"It's important to remember the rules of safe winter driving, especially during the first winter storm or two, when we're not in the winter driving mode," said Col. Tom Dravland, head of the state Highway Patrol.

The Highway Patrol offers these winter driving tips:

* Buckle up for safety � always wear a seatbelt. Strap children into booster or car seats, and be sure all other persons are safely restrained in the vehicle.

* Reduce speed to match road conditions. Overdriving road conditions is a frequent cause of accidents.

* Do not use cruise control when snowy or icy road conditions exist.

* Make sure your vehicle has been prepared for winter driving. Check fluid levels, defroster, heater, tires, and windshield wipers.

* Keep your gas tank full.

* Travel with an emergency kit. Items to include are a shovel, sand, salt, tow chain, flashlight, warning light or road flares, extra clothing and footwear, emergency food pack, booster cables, ice scraper and brush, road maps, first-aid kit, matches, candle, fire extinguisher, antifreeze, and a blanket.

* If the Interstate is closed because of weather conditions, do not travel on secondary roads. Usually, secondary roads are in the same or worse condition for traveling.

* If you become stranded, stay with your vehicle.

* If you become stuck on the road and need to run your vehicle to stay warm, be sure to keep the exhaust free from snow and ice.

* Be sure to call ahead and let someone know your destination, your estimated time of arrival and the routes you will be taking.

* Carry a well-charged cell phone, but keep in mind that a cell phone does not make traveling in winter weather safe.

The South Dakota Department of Transportation also offered these tips regarding driver safety and snowplows:

* Turn on your headlights. A car with its headlights on is much easier to see.

* Do not follow a snowplow too closely. Usually, a snowplow can stop more quickly than a car.

* Do not pass a snowplow unless you have a clear view of the road ahead. Whenever possible, snowplow drivers will pull over to the side of the road in a safe spot so vehicles may pass.

* Keep in mind that snowplows operate at a top speed of 25-30 mph.

* Darkness reduces visibility, so it is more dangerous to plow snow during the nighttime hours. Frequently, snowplows will be pulled in at dark.

* When reduced visibility turns snowplows into hazards or obstacles, they are called off the roads. Plowing will resume once visibility improves.

* Snowplow drivers are trained to respond to accidents, but cannot provide towing services to motorists.

* Give snowplow drivers a break. Operating heavy equipment with limited visibility is a very demanding job. Snowplow drivers do the best they can in the adverse conditions.

Winter road condition information is available from the following sources:

* The Department of Transportation's road conditions report can be found at the state's Web site at http://www.state. or and following the traveler information/road conditions link at either site.

* Dial #SAFE (#7233) from any cell phone or (701) 777-6133.

from any regular phone for road condition and weather information for major routes in

South Dakota, North Dakota, and Minnesota. The "#" key must be dialed before the four digit number, which spells "SAFE."

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