DETROIT – Here are safety tips for drivers from Michigan State Police and the Michigan Department of Transportation:
If you have to drive, drive slowly and carefully
Let other people know your travel plans, so if you don't reach your destination, people know where to look.
Michigan has a Basic Speed Law, which means the state requires motorists to drive at a "careful and prudent" speed in all driving conditions to be able to come to a complete stop without striking anything. The Michigan Department of Transportation emphasizes that this often means driving well below the posted speed limit.
MDOT also recommends being cautious while turning or changing lanes as sudden movements can cause vehicles to lose control. Michigan State Police said if your vehicle does lose control, let off the gas and brakes and use a quick-hand-over-hand method to turn the front tires in the direction you want to go.
MSP strongly urges residents to avoid unnecessary travel during snowstorms. Minimizing the number of vehicles on the roads will limit collisions and allow snowplows to clear roads more effectively.
The Michigan Sheriff's Association reminds residents that drinking and driving is dangerous and illegal in all seasons.
Make sure your vehicle is prepared for the elements
Having a proper mix of antifreeze and water in the cooling system, topping off windshield wiper fluid and replacing worn windshield wipers should be done before driving, MDOT said. Additionally, check tire tread and pressure before driving. Tread and pressure can affect the effectiveness of the safety of vehicles on the road.
Other items to keep an eye on are the vehicle's radiator system, engine and heating system, brakes, brake fluid, oil and car battery.
MDOT recommends keeping your gas tank at least half0full at all times to prevent fuel lines from freezing and ice from building up in the gas tank. MSP, however, recommends a full tank.
Drivers should wash dirt from their vehicles and drive with headlights on for better visibility to other drivers. Headlights can even make cars more visible during daytime, reducing collisions by almost 25 percent.
Remove ice and snow from lights, mirrors, windows, license plates and any other surface. Not fully removing snow from a vehicle is against Michigan laws.
Keep an emergency preparedness kit
MSP and MDOT recommend keeping an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle stocked with batteries, phone chargers, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, windshield scraper, jumper cables, shovel, blankets, first aid kit, and nonperishable food and bottled water in the event you get stranded or stuck.
A bag of sand or cat litter should be kept in the car to be used for traction under tires if your car becomes stuck.
What to do if you do get stuck
Michigan weather is unpredictable any time of year, but especially during the winter months. MSP said if your vehicle becomes stranded in a winter storm, do not leave, but stay with the vehicle and wait for help.
Residents who need assistance or guidance during the winter storm are encouraged to call 211.
Do not spin your wheels if you become stuck. It could dig your vehicle deeper into the snow. Use a shovel to dig around the wheels and undercarriage. Attempt to "rock" the vehicle by shifting into drive and giving the vehicle a little gas, then shifting into reverse and accelerating.
Make sure you have fresh air by checking the exhaust to make sure it isn't blocked by snow. Open the windows or turn off the car if necessary. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can kill quickly.
To stay safe during a winter storm:
- Stay indoors if possible. If you must go outside, wear protective gear, such as hats, mittens, gloves, scarf and a warm coat.
- Avoid overexertion when shoveling heavy snow, pushing a car, or walking in deep snow. Take breaks frequently.
- Watch for signs of frostbite, which include loss of feeling or pale appearance of fingers, toes or face.
- Watch for signs of hypothermia, which include uncontrollable shivering, memory loss, drowsiness and exhaustion.
- Understand the hazards of wind chill. As wind speed increases, heat is carried away from a person's body more rapidly, which could lead to severe hypothermia.
- Remove clothing if it gets damp or wet. Wet clothing can make you more prone to hypothermia.
- Weatherproof doors and windows to trap heat inside your home.
- Check heating units. Poorly operating or damaged heating units can release carbon monoxide gas. Test carbon monoxide detectors for proper operation and battery life.
- Check on family, friends and neighbors who are at risk and may need additional assistance.
- Watch pets closely and keep them indoors when possible. Animals can suffer from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold-weather injuries.
- In addition to being prepared for the winter storm, the MSP reminds motorists to take extra precautions when stopping and driving in winter weather.