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Editorial: Conquer winter driving challenges

Winter's impact on roads can stretch the skills of even the most experienced driver.

An onslaught of ice, snow and limited visibility adds to the challenges people behind-the-wheel otherwise face. The Wisconsin State Patrol advises taking precautions and exercising patience to arrive at destinations safely during this time of the year.

Motorists can help the visibility situation by removing all frost, ice and snow from vehicle windows. Clearing a small patch of the glass isn't sufficient; have the windows in a condition allowing for sight in all directions at all times in order to avoid crashes. The lights, hood and roof should also be free of snow and ice to help improve visibility and safety.

A state law requires doing this. Violating the law costs $175.30 with two demerit points assessed on the driver's record.

Speed is a factor in a lot of vehicles ending up in ditches and other crashes. The posted speeds are meant for dry pavement; ice or snow on the road may make those speeds hazardous. Four-wheel-drive and other heavy duty vehicles need ample distance for stopping on slippery roads, just like other vehicles.

A citation for driving too fast for conditions costs $213.10 with four demerit points.

The State Patrol also offers the following safety tips:

  • Always wear a seat belt, even if traveling a short distance (vehicle occupants need this protection even in low-speed "fender-bender" collisions);
  • Watch for slippery bridge decks (they ice up more quickly than adjacent pavement);
  • Look farther ahead than normally (actions by drivers ahead will alert about upcoming slippery spots and other hazards sooner);
  • Don't use cruise control in wintry conditions (even on roads appearing clear, there may be slippery spots, which can cause loss of traction and a spinout if the vehicle is in the cruise-control mode).
  • Don't get overconfident in the traction of a four-wheel-drive vehicle (these won't stop any quicker or maintain traction in curves any better than two-wheel-drive vehicles).
  • Brake early and correctly (it takes much longer to stop in adverse conditions).
  • Don't pump anti-lock brakes (with these, the correct method is to "stomp and steer").
  • Remember trucks are heavier than cars (trucks take longer to slow down or stop, so avoid cutting in front of them).
  • Leave plenty of room for snow plows (stay back at least 200 feet and don't pass on the right).

    Winter driving takes additional effort. Be prepared for the challenges before ever leaving home.

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