How to meet the challenges of winter driving in WisconsinAs temperatures cool and daylight dwindles, Wisconsin motorists will soon face the seasonal onslaught of ice, snow, and limited visibility that makes driving difficult — if not impossible — at times.
As temperatures cool and daylight dwindles, Wisconsin motorists will soon face the seasonal onslaught of ice, snow, and limited visibility that makes driving difficult—if not impossible—at times. To cope with treacherous winter driving conditions, motorists should follow common-sense precautions that will protect them and others on the road.
On ice and snow, far too many drivers crash or skid off the road because they were driving too fast for conditions.
“The posted speed limits are for dry pavement, and those speeds may be hazardous when roads are slick from ice and snow,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Captain Jeff Frenette of the Wisconsin State Patrol's Northwest Region. “The slogan ‘Snow Means Slow’ also applies to four-wheel drive and other heavy duty vehicles, which 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 assessed on the driver’s record.”
Winter weather also can limit visibility, so drivers must remove all frost, ice and snow from their vehicle’s windows.
“Clearing only a small patch on a windshield or rear window is not sufficient. You must be able to see in all directions at all times to avoid crashes,” Frenette said. “Clearing snow and ice from the lights, hood and roof also helps improve visibility and safety.”
According to state law, a vehicle’s windshield, side wings, and side and rear windows must be kept clear at all times. Violating this law costs $175.30 with two demerit points.
During severe winter storms, the wisest decision often is to stay put and not drive.
“Our officers frequently respond to vehicles in the ditch and chain-reaction crashes when motorists really should not have attempted to travel,” Frenette said. “Slowed or stalled traffic on slippery roads also delays snowplows and tow trucks, which are trying to get the roads cleared.”
To minimize the dangers of winter driving, the State Patrol offers the following safety tips:
Always wear your safety belt. You and your passengers absolutely need this protection even in low-speed “fender-bender” collisions.
Don’t use your cruise control in wintry conditions. Even on roads that appear clear, there may be slippery spots, which can cause a loss of traction and a spinout if the vehicle is in the cruise-control mode.
Watch for slippery bridge decks. They ice up faster than adjacent pavement.
Look farther ahead than you normally do. If vehicles ahead of you are swerving or show other signs of loss of traction, you should slow down and take extra precautions.
Brake early and correctly. It takes much longer to stop in adverse conditions.
Don’t pump anti-lock brakes. With anti-lock brakes, the correct braking method is to “stomp and steer.”
Don’t be overconfident about the traction and stopping distance of four-wheel drive vehicles, which generally won’t grip an icy road any better than two-wheel drive vehicles.
Avoid cutting in front of large trucks, which take longer than automobiles to slow down or stop.
Leave plenty of room for snowplows. By law, you must stay back at least 200 feet from the rear of a snowplow.