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Driving in Winter Weather Conditions

The snow is falling, the holidays are upon us, and winter recreation activities are plentiful.  People will be driving over the Cascade passes to visit family and/or spend time in the snow.  The anticipation of getting up to the mountain while navigating winter roadways can be a recipe for a disaster or a serious motor vehicle accident.  Here are a few tips on keeping yourself and others safe when traveling in winter weather conditions.

  • Tune in to your local news channels in the mornings.  Check out what the road conditions are.  You may need to leave a little earlier than usually.  Pay attention to the traffic advisory signs en route.
  • Defrost all of the windows on your vehicle.  The sun-glare on the fog and ice will severely affect your ability to see the roadway and the vehicles and pedestrians ahead.
  • Remember to always leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you.  Gently tap on your brakes to keep the vehicle in control.  Slamming on the brakes and steering is counter intuitive.
  • A Four Wheel Drive does not guarantee safe passage over the mountains.  Drive cautiously, keep plenty of space between yourself and the other vehicles, and avoid driving too fast in slick conditions.
  • During the cold seasons, be sure to have proper traction devices.  Whether it is studded snow tires or chains, you want to be prepared for snow advisories.  Traction devices may be required to travel on the roads.  Be sure to put weight in the vehicle if it is rear wheel drive.  Carry a tarp to making chaining tires more pleasant.  Studded tires can be used in Oregon between November 1st and April 1st.  Other states may prohibit studded tires.
  • Be prepared for road closures and traffic stoppages.  Carry extra blankets, a shovel, flares, and keep your gas tank at least ¼ full.  When in doubt, fill up your gas tank.
  • Lastly, do not be in a hurry to get to where you are going. When you are rushed, you are less likely to follow the speed limit and pay attention to what is going on around you. Statistics show that a driver only saves a few minutes speeding and passing people on mountain passes. Is it worth risking somebody’s life to get up to the mountain 5 minutes faster?
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