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Brush up on winter driving know-how

Highway 65 south of New Richmond was filled with emergency vehicles last winter after an accident along the slippery stretch of highway. (Photo by Raymond T. Rivard)

Know the conditions and adjust driving habits accordingly

The first snowfall always seems like the worst.

Traffic crawls.

Tempers flare.

Crashes occur.

This winter, the St. Croix County Highway Department asks you to take the time to brush up on your winter driving skills.

Once the snow starts flying, we are in for several months of wintry driving conditions.

Early preparation can make for safer driving throughout the season. A big part of safe winter driving is to go slow. Know the conditions and adjust driving habits accordingly.

Motorists are encouraged to take extra precautions during early season storms because the weather conditions and lack of salt buildup can mean the roads are actually slipperier.

When ice is at or near the freezing mark, a thin film of water can form on top. An icy road with water on top, which is what you are likely to encounter in late fall and early winter, is about as slippery as it can get.

When pavements and air temperatures are colder later in the winter, the ice is typically drier and tires grip it much better.

Top tips for safe winter driving:

Go slowly.

Know the conditions.

Leave room for stopping.

Focus on driving.

Check condition and correct air pressure of tires.

Buckle up.

Be patient.

Motorists are also advised to ‘cruise without the cruise’ in wintry conditions and when the pavement is slippery. When motorists skid on a sudden slippery spot, they are advised to take their foot off the accelerator and steer in the direction of the skid. But if they are using cruise control, the car accelerates, and the vehicle can end up in the ditch or spinning out of control.

Over the summer, drivers forget their good winter driving habits. Drivers should build on good habits, like driving for the conditions. People shouldn’t drive 55 or 65 mph on ice or snow, even if they’re in a vehicle with all-wheel drive.

Four-wheel drive may get you going easier, but it won’t help you stop any faster or maintain control better once you lose traction.

Remember, four-wheel-drive does not mean four-wheel stop.

This message is brought to you by the St. Croix County Highway Department and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

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