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Putting the brakes on winter crashes

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As Minnesotans drive into the depths of winter next week, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) is reminding motorists about important driving skills for winter road conditions and the important survival items to store in a vehicle in the case motorists become stranded during cold weather.

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Winter Crash Facts

According to the DPS Office of Traffic Safety, during 2010-2012, there were a total of 68,686 crashes during the winter season (December-February), accounting for 32 percent of the state's total crashes.

In 2012, crashes on snow/icy road surfaces accounted for nearly 10,605 crashes, resulting in 28 deaths and 3,081 injuries.

"While winter conditions make driving challenging, these crashes and resulting deaths and injuries can be prevented if we buckle up and drive at safe speeds," State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said.

Winter Driving Tips

• Buckle up and make sure child restraints are secured tight enough. It is recommended to have bulky winter coats and blankets on top of the child restraint harness; not beneath, to ensure harness restraints fit properly.

• Drive at safe speeds according to road conditions, and allow plenty of travel time.

• Increase safe stopping distance between vehicles.

• Use extra precaution around snowplows. Keep at least five car-lengths behind plows.

• If you're skidding, ease your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.

• If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply a steady, firm pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump ABS brakes.

• Clear snow and ice from vehicle windows, hoods, headlights, brake lights and directional signals.

• Headlights must be turned on when it is snowing or sleeting.

• Do not use cruise control on snowy, icy or wet roads.

• Move over for emergency responders on the shoulder of the road -it's the law.

Parents of teen drivers should make sure new motorists experience snow and ice driving in a safe environment, such as an empty parking lot.

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