Although the forecast only calls for a few inches of snow over most of Iowa this weekend, motorists haven't had a lot of practice this year driving in winter weather, and frigid temperatures could make becoming stranded in a vehicle very dangerous. The Iowa Department of Transportation's snow plows will be out spreading anti-icing chemicals and clearing roads where necessary. Motorists should use extra caution and follow these tips to drive more safely during winter weather.Know before you go.
If your trip cannot be postponed until the weather improves, log on to discover all the ways in which you can receive 24/7 Iowa travel information at http://511ia.org/.Use your vehicle's safety equipment.
Make sure you and your passengers are wearing their seatbelts or are in a child safety seat. Your vehicle's headlights are a valuable asset when driving in winter weather. Turn them on to see and be seen. Fill your vehicle's gas tank.
Before traveling in winter weather, always keep your vehicle's gas tank nearly full and make sure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition. Never use cruise control during winter weather.
Your vehicle's cruise control sensors may not work properly if the tires are traveling on packed snow or ice. This can cause your vehicle to increase its speed, placing you at greater risk of getting involved in a crash.Keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle.
This kit should contain items to help sustain your life and the lives of your passengers should your vehicle become stranded. These items can include: booster cables, candles and matches, a flashlight with fresh batteries, extra blankets and warm clothes, nonperishable food items, a can for melting water, and a snow shovel. Sufficient supplies should be in the kit for all persons traveling in the vehicle. Carrying a mobile phone in your vehicle is also advised for use during an emergency.Use caution when approaching or following a snowplow.
Snowplows generally operate at much slower speeds than other traffic. Snowplows can be forced sideways when clearing hard-packed drifts and generate a "snow cloud" that may impair the vision of drivers in nearby vehicles. Remain a safe distance behind the snowplow, pass only when clear; and never continue to drive alongside a plow. Allow plenty of space when passing the snowplow because the wing of the plow blade extends out to the side of the truck. Do not cut back into the lane of traffic too closely in front of a snowplow truck because the blade also extends in front of the truck. Remember the slogans, "Ice and Snow …Take It Slow" and "Don't crowd the plow."
Motor vehicle crashes kill more teenagers than anything else. With parents' help, two changes to Iowa's graduated driver's license system taking effect Jan. 1, 2014, are tools that can be used to keep kids safe behind the wheel and work to save their lives.
Longer instruction time behind the wheel: Statistics show that increased supervised experience behind the wheel helps young drivers develop safer driving habits. The first change in the Iowa law increases the time a young driver is required to carry an instruction permit to 12 months, up from the current six months, before they can apply for an intermediate license. The new law gives drivers twice the amount of time behind the wheel to learn from an experienced driver. It also allows for that driving practice to take place across all driving conditions and seasons. This law goes into effect for all young drivers applying for an intermediate license after Jan. 1, 2014.
Reduced distractions: We all want our kids to have friends, but piling those friends in the car with your 16-year-old driver is a recipe for disaster. Data proves that the first six months of driving without an adult is the most dangerous for teen drivers. To reduce the risk an unsupervised young driver with an intermediate license will be limited to one unrelated minor passenger during the first six months that child has a license. (A child driving with adult supervision is not subject to this limit.) Parents can waive this restriction, but only at the time the intermediate license is issued. This will apply to all intermediate licenses issued after Jan. 1, 2014.
The new law also limits a young driver with a minor school license to one unrelated minor passenger when driving without adult supervision. Unlike the intermediate license restriction, this restriction applies as long as the young driver holds a minor school license. This part of the law also becomes effective Jan. 1, 2014, and applies to all persons holding a minor school license, even if the license was issued before Jan. 1, 2014.
An unrelated minor child is defined as someone that is not your brother or sister, step-brother or sister, or a child living in your household. The definition of adult supervisor as it relates to this mandate means your parent, guardian, or custodian; an immediate family member at least 21 years of age, a driver education instructor, or a person at least 25 years old with written permission from your parent, guardian, or custodian. They must sit in the front passenger seat while you are driving.
These changes to Iowa's driver's license system are designed to keep us all safer and contribute to the overall goal of zero fatalities on Iowa's highways.