Best approach to winter driving: Be prepared

Many Idahoans will go "over the river and through the woods" for Thanksgiving reunions this month, and chances are good that winter driving conditions will be on the holiday menu at higher elevations.

ITD encourages drivers to plan ahead, make sure their vehicle is properly checked, equipped for winter travel and exercise appropriate caution on the highways.

Idaho is rugged country with a diverse geography and natural beauty. The qualities that invite exploration, recreation and commerce also can make winter driving a challenge. Safely navigating Idaho’s winter weather and highways requires preparation.

It begins before you begin, ITD advises.

“We often receive a few early storms that remind us winter is around the corner and that we should begin to anticipate more difficult driving conditions,” said ITD Chief Engineer Tom Cole. He encourages Idaho drivers to make sure their vehicles are ready for the coming season and to begin preparing for snow-covered roads.

“Preparation and anticipation are two strategies that will help ensure safe winter driving. Our highest priority is to provide the safest travel conditions possible. We have professionals assigned to winter maintenance, and they are ready for the challenges ahead. But we also ask drivers to do their part to make winter travel safer by exercising caution and patience," Cole added.

Now is the time to make sure you and your vehicle are ready for the demands of winter driving. The transportation department will do everything possible from a maintenance perspective to ensure that you arrive safely at your destination.

The department encourages a pre-winter vehicle inspection that includes tires, brakes, windshield wipers and fluid levels. Drivers should carry essential emergency items when traveling on Idaho highways. They also should be familiar with how their vehicle handles in a variety of conditions, including snow and ice.

Drivers should check Idaho’s 511 Traveler Services website ( or call 5-1-1 before traveling out of town in the winter for the latest reports on highway and weather conditions. Reports are updated at least twice daily during the week and at least once daily on weekends. They also are changed more frequently as weather and highway conditions change.

Perhaps the best defense against demanding winter driving conditions is a good offense: ITD recommends that drivers should never turn the ignition key without first buckling their seat belt.

Published 11-15-13