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Prevention worth a pound of cure on snowy roads

We’ve seen it on TV. Most of us have heard the warnings. Some of us probably have even experienced problems. Whether you are the most seasoned winter traveler or someone who likes to stay close to home, a few minutes of your time can really pay off when it comes to driving in winter conditions– call it preventive medicine.

In our mind, we know it’s the right thing to do, yet very few of us have actually taken precautions.

The basics: Ice and snow, take it slow. Allocate extra time for the drive so you don’t feel rushed. Never use cruise control on snow and ice; cruise control and winter driving conditions do not mix.

Prepare your vehicle. There is never a good time to have a vehicle break down, but winter usually is the worst time. If you’re going to get a tuneup, do it in the late fall. Be sure that you can rely on the simple yet vital systems that we all take for granted such as your battery, lights, antifreeze, wipers, belts, hoses, etc.

Don’t crowd the plow. At a minimum stay 15 car lengths behind the plow. Use common sense and know what your vehicle is capable of; remember, four-wheel drive doesn’t help you stop or steer on ice.

Think about others on the road. If you lose control, everyone in your vicinity on the road is at risk. While driving , you are a 2,000-pound metal missile capable of significant collateral damage.

Learn how to jump-start your car. A battery that has lost power is one of the most common roadside emergencies. If you can’t remember the steps, you should have step-by-step directions in your owner’s manual. Invest in a good pair of jumper cables. Keep your gas tank topped off.

If you become stranded don’t leave your vehicle in search of

help. Rescuers are much more likely to find a lost car than a lost person. Ensure that your exhaust pipe is clear from the snow to prevent possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Tie a brightly colored bandana or “flag” to your antenna. Run your engine, if possible, for 10 to 15 minutes every hour. When the engine is running, heat the car’s interior and turn your dome light on for added visibility. Keep moving your arms and legs.

Read alerts and travel advisories at mdt.mt.gov/travinfo to learn about hazardous weather, and road conditions and closures. The Montana Department of Transportation website is very thorough. Or you can call the Montana Road Conditions Hotline at 1-800-226-7623 (TTY 1-800-335-7592).

Finally, we’ve all seen the emergency packing lists. Basics include blankets or a sleeping bag, bottled water, nonperishable food items such as trail mix or granola bars, dry clothing, boots, a shovel, cellphone, flares or roadside reflectors, jumper cables, matches and a candle, flashlight, and a “flag” for your antenna.

Stay safe, and remember, an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure.