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Keep Safe in Winter Travel

November 9, 2012

North Dakota residents are no stranger to dangerous winter driving, and with winter quickly approaching, law enforcement officials remind residents to take precaution during winter travel.

Sgt. Dave Swenson from the Valley City Police Department recommends that people do not have less than half a tank of gas in their vehicle during winter weather, and always travel with an emergency survival kit in the vehicle.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol reminds motorists that “North Dakota roads will be busy this weekend with opening deer season and Veterans Day. With the potential for a winter storm and hazardous driving conditions along with increased traffic, it’s important that motorists drive with care.”

If roads deteriorate because of weather, motorists should drive for the conditions, the NDHP said in a press release.

Swenson said during adverse driving conditions, like snow, sleet and fog, “don’t drive with cruise control on.”

And the number one key, he said is “slow down and always wear your seatbelt.”

Another important part of traveling during the winter is to make sure to have a cell phone along and charged.

“In case you get stuck, at least you can call,” Swenson said.

“Keep in mind it’s against the law to text and drive and we don’t recommend driving and talking on the phone, but keep it in your vehicle for emergencies,” he continued.

Before making travel plans, though, officials recommend checking the weather and road reports.

“Anytime you’re traveling, it’s always a good idea to get on the internet and search for the weather to wherever you’re traveling,” Swenson said. “Find out what the weather conditions are supposed to be like for that area so you have a heads up.”

The North Dakota Department of Transportation currently offers two easy ways to find the latest road conditions; calling 511 from any phone and checking the travel information map at www.dot.nd.gov.

The NDDOT also releases information to the public about road conditions on state highways. “There are three categories you should familiarize yourself with,” it said in a press release.

*Roads are closed: Motorists are not allowed to travel on a closed road due to life threatening conditions.  The road may be impassible or blocked.  Motorists who drive past a road closure device may be fined.
*No Travel Advisories: Motorists should not travel due to hazardous conditions which may make it unsafe to travel.  Snow plows may be pulled from the roads during severe conditions.  Motorists should take “no travel” advisories seriously as those motorists who choose to travel at their own risk may become stranded and emergency responders may not be able to reach them safely.  *Travel Alerts: Motorists can still travel but may encounter areas of challenging winter weather driving conditions on roadways.  Motorists should allow extra time to reach their destination and be alert to conditions that may make travel difficult, change rapidly, or cause travel delays.

Moreover, the North Dakota State University Extension Service has a winter survival kit app available to motorists that can help them when they are stuck in winter weather. The app is available free for Android and iOS systems.

“Our app will help you find your current location, call 911, notify your friends and family, calculate how long you can run your engine to keep warm and stay safe from carbon monoxide poisoning,” Bob Bertsch, NDSU Agriculture Communication Web technology specialist said in a press release. “You can use the Winter Survival Kit app to store important phone and policy numbers for insurance or roadside assistance. You also can designate emergency contacts you want to alert when you become stranded.”

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