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Editorial Stay alert; It’s winter driving time already

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opinion Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

It’s that time of year again — freezing temperatures and snow flurries are in the forecast, and motorists have to learn to drive in difficult conditions all over again.

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The Minnesota Department of Public Safety says everyone should be cautious about traveling in extreme winter weather: Cold, snow and ice are demanding on cars, drivers and passengers. Most importantly, extreme winter weather can threaten your life.

That’s important to remember if you are young and believe nothing bad can ever happen to you, or if you are new to Minnesota and come from warmer climes.

Each year, hundreds of Minnesotans find themselves stranded on the roadside. Winter weather can kill in mere minutes an unprepared person exposed to the elements.

So take a few minutes and prepare a winter survival kit for your car.

Don’t forget your cell phone, and keep it charged. A cell phone can be a lifesaver for drivers who witness, or are involved in, emergency situations. Be ready to tell dispatchers specifics about the emergency.

Cellular 911 calls are routed to public safety answering points operated by state or local agencies. Although newer cell phones now provide approximate location or have GPS and callback numbers when 911 is dialed, you may still need to provide an exact location.

Stay informed: The 511 Phone Information System provides road safety information 24 hours per day. Landline and cell phone users can call 511 for regional and statewide reports on traffic congestion, road and weather conditions, construction work and other obstacles.

The 511 website features both a dial-up-static site and a high-speed Internet-Google map site with real-time updates.

You can also sign up for the Metro Twitter account, which will alert you to any incidents within the Metro area. There is now also a 3G-smart phone site with the same information as the full featured site.

Respect the plows: State, county and local snowplow operators are trained, experienced and prepared to help others on the road through another frozen season.

Try not to make their lives more difficult: Last year in Minnesota, there were 72 crashes involving vehicles that hit snowplows — usually caused by inattentive drivers, motorists driving too close to the plow or motorists driving too fast for conditions.

Plow operators have their hands full already, and their ability to see behind them is limited by side mirrors. Their vision can also be hampered by the snow clouds they create while plowing.

Be patient and stay back at least five car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud. Snowplow operators will pull over when it is safe to do so to allow traffic build-up to pass.

Stay alert for snowplows that turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. They may also travel over centerlines or partially in traffic to make sure roadways are completely cleared.

Slow down to a safe speed for the weather conditions, and give yourself plenty of travel time. Snowplows typically move at slower speeds.

Buckle up and don’t travel if road conditions are too poor: It’s winter driving time again.

FORUM NEWS SERVICE

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