Safe winter travel begins with preparation

As Idaho motorists take to the roads this winter, ITD reminds that a few extra precautions can make winter journeys safer. ITD's top 10 recommendations for safe winter travel are:

1. Be prepared. Winter conditions increase the importance of a well-maintained vehicle. Keep car windows, mirrors and lights clear of snow and ice. Make sure tires and brakes are ready for the extra demands of winter. Visit a mechanic and ensure car battery and fluid levels are sufficient and heating units are working properly.

2. Plan ahead. Before heading out on the state's roadways, dial 5-1-1 or visit on the Web for updates on winter road and weather conditions, emergency closures and access to highway condition reports. More than 130 images from cameras throughout the state are available on the website and on the mobile web application.

3. Buckle up. Wearing a seat belt is the most effective safety precaution you can take. Also, children must be properly secured in an approved safety seat that is right for their age and weight and installed according to specifications.

4. Check the signs: ITD uses variable message signs on high-traffic routes to advise motorists of winter hazards. Those messages change as conditions change. Also pay attention to roadside signs, such as speed limits, high wind and low visibility advisories, sharp curves and potentially icy bridges.

5. Slow down. Leave a few minutes early, allow windshields adequate time to defrost and allow extra time to get to your destination. It is better to be a few minutes late than to put yourself and others at risk by driving too fast for the conditions.

6. Use extra caution. Be aware of potentially icy areas such as shady spots and bridges. Take caution against black ice. Drive less than the speed limit if conditions warrant. Allow extra distance between your car and the one you’re following. Check your mirrors to see how other motorists are driving; anticipate their actions.

7. Drive safely around snowplows. Drive at least two car lengths behind snowplows for every 10 mph of car speed. Do not pass a snowplow unless absolutely necessary and only when you have a clear view of the highway ahead. Never drive through the snow being ejected from the plows because the force of the spraying snow can throw a car out of control.

8. Keep emergency supplies in the car: Flashlights, extra batteries, first aid kit, pocket knife, blanket or sleeping bag, extra clothing, small sack of sand or cat litter for generating traction under vehicle wheels, small shovel, bottled water, booster cables, rope, energy bars or other food, brightly-colored scarf to attract attention in case of an emergency, waterproof matches or cigarette lighter and a map of the area.

9. Keep in touch: If carrying a cell phone, make sure it is fully charged and have a list of emergency telephone numbers available. Also, share travel plans with family or friends. Include estimated departure and arrival times, intended route and destination.

10. Don't drink and drive. Idaho law enforcement officers will increase patrols, especially during holiday periods, to catch and arrest drunk drivers. Be safe by designating a sober driver before traveling to any party or event involving alcohol.

Published 11-23-2012