As winter approaches Western Montana, make sure you and your vehicle(s) are ready for the ever-changing extreme weather and roadway conditions. Being prepared can help make your winter travels safer and reduce the chances of being involved in a crash.
Before you Hit the Road- Make sure your vehicle is in proper working order, and you are familiar with all of your vehicle options/settings for driving on icy, wet, and snowy roads. Familiarize yourself with the braking system, traction control, 4-wheel drive, window defroster system, etc. Have your vehicle serviced before your travels making sure to check over your essential fluids, oil, antifreeze, battery, windshield wipers, headlights, tire tread & tire pressure, spare tire & jack, and braking system, so all are in top working order. Outfitting your vehicle with studded tires or tire chains should be considered depending on the severity of conditions. Clear off ALL windows and mirrors of snow, ice, and condensation before you head out to enhance your overall vision and reduce potential blind spots.
Stock Your Vehicle- Keep items in your vehicle that could help if a breakdown or emergency occurs. These items could include; cell phone, jumper cables, flashlight, shovel, snow brush, ice scraper, warning devices (flairs), extra windshield wiper fluid, emergency medical kit, etc. For longer trips, think about having extra clothing, gloves, blankets, bottled water, food, & maps.
Plan Your Route-Wintry weather and road conditions commonly cause slower travel times, especially along congested city roadways. Check weather and traffic reports before you head out, plan your route accordingly, and allow yourself extra time to reach your destination.
BUCKLE UP!- Never drive without wearing your seatbelt. If you have children passengers, ensure they are properly secured in a child safety seat and positioned in the backseat. SEATBELTS SAVE LIVES!
Drive Defensively, Safely, and Avoid Being Distracted- Reframe from being distracted and stay in control with eyes upon the roadway and hands-free. Slow down, have patience, and make sure to leave plenty of room between you and the vehicles around you. Know your braking system and its capabilities (Antilock vs. Non-Antilock) and how the vehicle will react when you slow/stop on icy and snow-covered roadways. Accelerate and decelerate slowly to maintain traction. If you momentarily lose control, steer INTO the skid until you regain traction. Do not use cruise control on icy or snow-covered roads. Be aware of large street snow plows and smaller private snowplows moving snow in/around roadways and private driveways. Look for and be vigilant of pedestrians, bicyclists, and animals along or crossing roads at all times.
NEVER EVER DRIVE IMPAIRED- Never Drive under the Influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI) or Drive under the Influence of Technology (DUIT). If you drink, plan a sober ride. Use hands-free electronic devices and pull over to use cell phones. DUI & DUIT related State laws and City of Missoula Ordnances are strictly enforced by Law Enforcement to ensure everyone’s safety and wellness.
Personal Safety During Break Downs - If you do break down, make your personal safety the priority rather than your vehicle. If possible and safe to do so, get your vehicle off and away from the active roadway. Make your vehicle easily seen by other motorists to avoid a collision by turning on your flashing hazard lights and setting up a warning device like flairs or Hi-visibility signs. Stay in your vehicle and don’t hesitate to immediately call a tow truck, roadside assistance company, or 911 for help if you feel you are creating a safety hazard for other motorists.
If in doubt, STAY HOME- Finally, If the weather and/or road conditions are questionable and potentially dangerous, stay home. Especially with non-essential travel, it is always better to be patient and wait for conditions to improve before making the trip and risking you and your family’s safety.
Following these quick tips will help ensure your better prepared and driving safer this Montana Winter Season!
Special thanks to the Sgt. Kazinsky and the Missoula Police Traffic Division for submitting this blog post.
A longtime Drive Safe Missoula partner, the Missoula Police Department Traffic Division consists of one Sergeant, four motorcycle officers, one dedicated DUI Enforcement Officer, three civilian Crash Investigators and one civilian Abandoned Vehicle Specialist.
The goal of the Missoula Police Department Traffic Safety Unit is to increase the quality of life on the roadways of the city.
The Missoula Police Department responds to approximately 1,800 reported crashes per year, with the highest and most severe crash rates taking place along U.S. 93 / Reserve St.
Fourteen percent of all reported crashes are alcohol related, which correlates with the state and national average. Since 2003, the department has made DUI enforcement and traffic enforcement a priority, increasing our DUI arrests from 358 to a high of 1026 in nine years.
Thank you and Drive Safe, Missoula.