Tips for Cold Weather Driving in Minnesota

The United States has one of the most variable climates of any country, ranging from extreme heat and long dry spells in the southern and western U.S. to long wet seasons and intense cold in the northern and eastern states. Minnesota is situated on the northern edge of the U.S., adjacent to Canada, and the state experiences some of the most severe winter weather in the country. Minnesota residents and visitors to the state should know how to drive in cold and inclement weather.

Tips to Prepare

If you’re journeying to Minnesota or live in the state and are planning a long road trip, it’s a good idea to cover some essentials before you depart. If you happen to get stuck in the snow and ice, you’ll need a few bits of emergency supplies, including:

  • Tire repair kit and spare tires. A tire repair kit can save a damaged tire temporarily so you don’t have to put on your spare in the snow. In cases where a patch job will not suffice, make sure you have your vehicle’s jack, tire iron, and spare tire at all times.
  • First aid kit. If you find yourself stranded or in an accident in severe weather, it could take some time before emergency responders reach you. A first aid kit can help you dress minor wounds until help arrives.
  • Road flares. Snow and ice can make visibility a major issue. If you are in an accident or your car breaks down, you’ll need to let other drivers know where you are to prevent any more damage or injury to other drivers. Place road flares a safe distance from your vehicle so other motorists can quickly spot you.
  • Cell phone. Most people today carry some type of cell phone with them at all times. If you’re planning on cold weather driving in Minnesota, make sure your phone is fully charged before leaving. You may also want to consider keeping a backup battery or charging cable in your car.
  • Food and water. A small cache of snacks and bottled water can be a lifesaver in extreme situations. Consider keeping some in your vehicle, especially before making a long drive.

In Case of Emergency

In addition to these items, there are a few best practices to keep in mind for driving in wintry Minnesota weather or in case you find yourself stranded:

  • Drive defensively. Take extra care on the road during snow, ice, hail, fog, rain, or any other severe weather. Increase your typical following distance behind other cars. If you need to suddenly stop, snow or ice may cause your car to skid, so give yourself as much room as possible.
  • Take turns slowly. During severe winter weather, intersections can turn into slushy messes. Take extra care when you make turns on snowy or icy roads.
  • Remain calm. Above all else, make sure you stay as calm as possible during any emergency. Panicking may make it difficult to think clearly, and it causes many to overexert themselves. Overexertion is not a good thing during severe winter weather, so do everything you can to remain calm until help arrives.
  • Call 911. Do your best to tell 911 operators as much as you can about your current location and situation. Bear in mind that during severe weather, it could take some time for responders to arrive. Stay on the phone until you receive clear instructions about what you should do next.
  • Make yourself visible. Deploy road flares so emergency personnel can quickly and easily spot you.

With proper preparation, good driving practices, and a calm demeanor, you’ll greatly increase your chances of making your trip without incident or mitigating the damage in case of one.