Over the River and Through the Woods (safely)
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Viking, Minnesota

Rural Reflections Radio

Fall has stolen a month from Winter but snow and wind will soon combine to make travel hazardous. We live in an area where you have to accept less than perfect holiday travel. This week I want to make your trip to grandmother’s house a little more safe.

This isn’t going to be a column about packing extra food, a space blanket and a shovel for when you slide into a snow-filled ditch. If you’re already stuck then it’s too late. I do agree with being prepared however the most important supply to include would be a positive mental attitude and a cool head. Stay with your car, run it occasionally for warmth and put on the extra clothes you packed.

What I really want to talk about occurs before you leave the house. I have learned a lot about travel in my sixteen years as a Sheriff’s Office dispatcher. People often ask, "should I drive to town today?" My answer has always been, "are you going to shop or for a kidney transplant?." This may sound flippant but what I’m really saying is to consider the importance of this trip. You also have to take into account your own driving skills. I once drove a beet truck which had lights that would periodically short-circuit at night. I practiced closing my eyes for a few seconds at a time so I was used to not seeing the road if the lights did quit. I learned to keep my hands firmly on the wheel and control my emotions when I couldn’t see the road. When you drive in Winter weather, blowing snow can blind you for long periods. You must stay calm, fight the urge to turn the steering wheel and then reduce your speed. Choose your vehicle carefully for Winter driving. A large sport utility vehicle may make you feel safe but it won’t brake any better on ice. Truck owners who value their vehicle’s transfer case rarely leave the four wheel drive locked in during highway driving so you lose the benefit of four wheel drive. Myself, I favor a front wheel drive car with a careful driver.

The more I prepare, the luckier I get. This phrase is so true when it comes to Winter driving. Follow the weather for several days before any trip to get a true feel for what’s happening. You can check road and weather reports 24 hours a day by dialing 511 from your cell phone or 1-511 from your home phone. Internet users can try www.511mn.org My favorite weather source is still our local radio station. Most stations use the weather forecast compiled by the National Weather Service and it’s still the best forecast for my money and my safety.

Holiday driving in the old days meant a sleigh ride across an open field.  Rider used hot potatoes placed under a blanket to keep them warm.  In comparison, listening to the radio, reducing your speed and using good judgement doesn't seem like such a hard task.  Enjoy your family and drive safely this holiday season