MISSOULA — This week’s snowfall means a return to winter driving, which can be dangerous if you’re not alert and aware.
Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) at the state and local level in Montana are warning drivers to take extra caution while driving during winter weather.
They have several safety tips that can help ensure everyone’s safety on the road.
Missoula DES deputy coordinator Nick Holloway says the first months of winter weather often come with an influx of emergency calls.
“There's usually an initial surge of calls as the weather changes for the winter season because people are used to driving like in summer and they have to adjust to different driving conditions,” he says.
Holloway stresses the importance of one rule for winter driving — slow down.
“People need to remember to adjust their driving to the conditions on the road,” he says. “So that means slow down, give a little extra time to get where they're going– so leave a little earlier.”
Missoula DES also recommends using brakes cautiously on icy roads and relying on slowly decelerating — by taking your foot off the gas — when possible.
Holloway also says it’s important to allow extra space between cars to provide a better reaction time.
“It takes longer to stop when it's slick out so just remember to give some space to the vehicle in front of you,” he says.
While careful driving is important, so is preparing yourself for emergency situations, such as extreme weather or road closures.
Montana DES, as well as the Montana Department of Transportation, has extensive lists of what to keep in your vehicle during the winter.
Montana DES suggests keeping the following in your car at all times:
- cell phone charger
- first aid kit
- jumper cables
- extra water and snacks
- Tow rope
- Flashlight and flares
- Sand or kitty litter
- Shovel, snow brush and ice scraper
- Warm clothing- mittens, hats and winter boots
They also recommend having tire chains or snow tires on your car, especially if your vehicle does not have four-wheel drive.
Having a full tank of gas as often as possible is also a great idea, according to Holloway.