Brown County Sheriff: Winter driving

We’ve all made it through road construction season and are now into the trying season of winter driving. I would like to take this time to go over a few pertinent points to keep in mind when venturing out onto the roads. First of all, please always plan ahead before traveling. Check with the MNDOT website or call their toll free number to ascertain road conditions on the route that you will be using. Keep in mind that it is important to allow more time than you would normally if roads are iced over or snow covered. The most crucial safety tip for winter is to SLOW DOWN. Poor Conditions can multiply your stopping distance up to ten times. Let someone know of your planned route and estimated leaving and arrival times. Keep a winter survival kit inside of your car, because it may not be accessible if it is in the trunk. Include a flashlight, candles, matches, snacks, red bandana or cloth, cell phone charger for your vehicle, etc. It is also a good idea to keep extra boots, mittens, hats and blankets in your car to stay warm when frigid temperatures are upon us. Jumper cables, cat litter or sand in a plastic container and a small shovel are also items to help you get your vehicle “unstuck”.

If you should happen to go off the road, tie the brightly colored cloth on your antennae to make your vehicle more visible. Do not try to walk for help; ALWAYS stay with your vehicle. Call 911 to summon help. Provide the following information: location, condition of all persons in vehicle and the problem that you are experiencing.

Remember that when the snowplows are out, they are trying to make travel easier and more convenient for us. We need to allow the drivers room to clean the roads safely. Minnesota statute 169.18 subdivision 8 (a) states that “a driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow within 500 feet of another vehicle.”

Another issue that can arise this time of year are road closures. Roads are not closed arbitrarily, there are certain criteria that must be met before barriers or flashing lights are implemented. Roads are determined impassible or unsafe for drivers by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. When road closures are deemed necessary, you will find them marked on the DOT website or by calling their toll free number.

According to Minnesota statute 160.27 subdivision 5 (14), it is “a misdemeanor offense to drive over, through , or around any barricade, fence or obstruction erected for the purpose of preventing traffic from passing over a portion of a highway closed to public travel.”

Don’t forget to use your headlights! Headlights need to be displayed any time from sunsetto sunrise, raining, snowing, sleeting or any other time when visibility is impaired by weather, smoke or fog.

Lastly, if in your holiday travels, you plan on celebrating by consuming alcohol, please make prior arrangements for a sober driver. The Brown County Sheriff’s Office wants everyone to have a safe Holiday Season.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!