We change the clothes we wear, the time on the clock and the batteries in our smoke detectors. This is also a great time for that annual change of our mind-set when it comes to driving. Snow, ice and wind provide many new challenges for drivers in Minnesota. With winter quickly approaching it is time to brush up on our winter driving skills. State, county and local agencies are getting ready for another snow and ice season. The snow will soon be falling and snow plows will be out in full force. I'd like to use this column as a chance to get people thinking about driving safely this winter. Some important things to remember are: Be patient. Plows travel at a slower speed in order to do a more effective job clearing the road. It's recommended that you allow at least 5 to 10 car lengths between your vehicle and a plow. The plow driver's field of vision is severely restricted behind the truck. This will help allow motorist time to react to snow clouds and unforeseen conditions that may exist. Stay alert. Plows occasionally will be plowing over center-lines or partially into traffic to improve road conditions. Stay behind the plow. The road behind the plow is typically better than the unplowed road in front of it. Turn on your headlights. It helps plow drivers see what is coming towards them or behind them. Turn off your cruise control. Plows occasionally will pull over to let motorists pass. NEVER drive into a snow cloud. This is an extremely dangerous situation, both for the plow driver and for the motoring public. The chemicals applied to the road to melt ice take time to work. Colder temperatures can slow the melting process. Do not travel on closed roads. If the roads are closed, that means more than likely there is not a plow on that road. We will pull our plows off the roads when the weather conditions become extremely dangerous for us to operate. For the most up to date road conditions, please monitor 511. This service is available through phone, desktop and smart phone apps and has the most up to date road condition information. A plow cam feature was added last year that allows you to see what the plows are seeing for road conditions. This is available on both the desktop and mobile app feature. MnDOT offers a Facebook page and Twitter account to keep you up to date as well. In closing, I hope you all have a safe winter driving season.
Chase Fester is maintenance superintendent for MnDOT District 7.