NEGAUNEE, Mich. (WJMN) – As winter conditions make their way back to Michigan, Michigan State Police (MSP) is urging drivers to brush up on their winter driving skills. Since troopers tend to respond to a large influx of accidents coinciding with the first major snowfalls of the season, MSP is providing tips for those in need of a refresher on the seasonal changes. Lieutenant Mark Giannunzio from MSP’s Negaunee Post met with Local 3 to discuss some of the advisories.
“In Michigan, we have what’s called the Basic Speed Law,” Giannunzio said. “And that means that even though the posted speed limit might say 55 or 65 miles an hour, if the road conditions and the weather conditions say that it’s only safe to go 35 miles an hour, then that’s what you should be traveling at, a safe and prudent speed.”
While traveling at safe speeds is key, MSP says if weather is bad and the driver doesn’t feel comfortable, it can be best to stay home or pull off the road until conditions improve. When a vehicle starts to slide, while braking immediately may seem the best course of action, it can make the problem worse when brakes lock up.
“If you start sliding on ice don’t hit your brakes right away, because that’s just gonna keep on adding to the problem with sliding even further,” Giannunzio said. “If you can try to steer out of it, let off the gas and steer out of that situation, that’s gonna get you a lot further than it is by hitting the brakes and jerking the wheel.”
In recent weeks, MSP’s Eighth District has issued a series of recommendations regarding winter driving preparedness. Among them is a list of items to keep in your vehicle during the winter in case of emergency, including blankets, flares, food, and water.
“If you do break down and are on the side of the road, make sure that your hazard lights are on and flashing,” Giannunzio said. “If you have flares, road flares, set those out too because the visibility in the winter is much worse than it is in the summertime, so when people are broke down we do need to be visible, make sure that people behind us coming up on the scene know that you’re there and don’t hit you. It’s okay to have an emergency safety vest, a yellow reflective vest in your vehicle too, wear that when you’re outside of the vehicle.”
Having proper tread on tires is crucial as well. A simple test done by placing a quarter in the grooves of your tires can tell you when they are ready to be replaced.
“Basically, take a quarter and make sure that when you put that quarter over it that the head of that quarter is covered by the tread of the vehicle tires,” Giannunzio said. “If at all baldness is setting in on the tires make sure you get those replaced, and if you have winter tires that you’re storing away, make sure those are getting on there pretty soon.”
When snowplows are out clearing roads, MSP warns that motorists should steer clear to avoid being hit by what the machines are kicking up.
“Make sure you’re staying way, way back from a snowplow,” Giannunzio said. “500 feet minimum. That vehicle is going to be making some slow movements, they’re gonna be throwing up a lot snow into oncoming vehicles and onto the shoulder of the roadway. You want to stay as far back from the vehicle as possible to give it as much room as it needs to do its job.”
Before traveling this winter, MSP encourages drivers to use caution and use tools available to them. Drivers are encouraged to utilize the MI Drive map on the Michigan Department of Transportation’s website.
For more information regarding winter driving in the U.P., follow MSP’s Eighth District on Twitter.