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Editorial: Snow is here; use caution and common sense on the roadways

We got the snow we wanted. Let's hope, for the sake of outdoor recreation and winter tourism, there's more to come soon. Snow brings plenty of fun but can also lead to problems on the roadways.

These first couple bouts of winter weather, the first of which dumped at least a foot of snow on the area, is our annual wake-up call for safe winter driving. Possibly lulled by the warm fall weather many drivers seem to forget how to drive in the snow. This is Minnesota, we know winter is coming each year but yet we don't always take the best and safest approach to winter driving.

Hubbard County Sheriff's Office & Emergency Management sent out some important reminders when it comes to driving on snow and ice covered roads this winter.

It's important to pay attention to weather conditions before you set out on your travels. Many times people do not take the travel advisories seriously, and if authorities are saying not to travel, that's exactly what they mean.

At times, law enforcement get to people who are stuck or in the ditch and they say something to the effect, "I was going to the grocery store." The sheriff's office advises with most winter storms there are days of notice for the storm. People need to take the steps to run errands right away and not wait for the storm to hit..

The sheriff's office says they also see a lot of motorists that do not brush the snow off of their car or drive with only a small patch of frost removed from the windows. That's dangerous to you and others on the road. Both actions are in violation of Minnesota statutes and the driver could be charged if/when stopped.

These are all things we know but often forget when winter rolls in and covers our roads.

Reduce speed - Keep speeds slow to avoid slipping and sliding.

Allow longer stopping distances - It takes extra time to slow down so leave space between you and the car in front of you.

Turn off cruise control - Take control of your own acceleration

Take it slow - Steer, brake and accelerate slowly so you don't lose control of the car

Beware of black ice - Slow down before intersections, off-ramps, bridges or shady spots where black ice forms.

Enter traffic cautiously - Don't take chances, don't cut in front.

Top tips for winter driving

Test road conditions frequently. Periodically, check the traction when driving in challenging conditions. Road conditions can change dramatically in a short period of time/distance in winter. Apply the brakes with moderate pressure to determine the available grip and modify your driving, if needed, to respond to ever-changing road conditions.

It's best to avoid braking or acceleration when negotiating a turn. Brake before the turn; negotiate the turn; accelerate after the turn.

You cruise, you lose. Avoid cruise control in wet, icy or snow conditions to maintain control of acceleration and deceleration at all times.

Other things to keep in mind: Turn your headlights on. Put the phone down. Allow extra distances between vehicles. Winterize your car by checking the belts and hoses for wear, cracks and proper tension. Check all lights and replace any burned out bulbs. Keep head and tail light lenses free of dirt. Have an auto repair specialist test your battery and remove any built-up corrosion on the battery's posts and cables. Make sure you have a roadside emergency kit in your car. Check the tires for worn tread and uneven wear. Replace tires if needed and make sure tires are properly inflated. Don't join the "10 Percent Club"; Almost one out of every 10 cars has at least one worn or bald tire. Visibility is key in the winter so inspect your wiper blades for wear and tear. Replace wiper blades each year.

MnDOT reminds public not push snow on to roads

The Minnesota Department of Transportation reminds the public that it is unlawful to deposit snow on or next to a public highway or street.

"Improperly placing snow on or near a public road creates hazards including drainage problems, drifting, sight obstruction and unsafe access," said Curt Larson, maintenance superintendent.

"Keep crosswalks, intersections, entrances and exits clean and unobstructed."

Minnesota law and many local ordinances prohibit the plowing, blowing, shoveling or otherwise placing of snow on to public roads. This includes the ditch and right of way area along the roads.

Violations are considered misdemeanors, but civil penalties also apply if the placement of snow creates a hazard, such as a slippery area, frozen rut or bump, that contributes to a motor vehicle or pedestrian crash. The civil liability can extend to both the property owner and the person who placed the snow.

MnDOT maintenance crews plow and maintain about 12,000 miles of state highways and interstates in Minnesota. In this part of the state, District 2 crews are responsible for about 3,900 lane miles.

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