Law Of The Month

Motorists need to follow common-sense precautions to meet the challenges of winter driving in Wisconsin.

As temperatures cool and daylight dwindles, even lifelong residents of Wisconsin need to be reminded that the inevitable onslaught of ice, snow, and limited visibility will make winter driving difficult—if not impossible—at times. During the cold weather months, all drivers should follow common-sense precautions that will protect them and others on the road.

When roads are slick with ice or snow, far too many drivers crash or skid off the road because they were driving too fast for conditions.  The posted speed limits are set for dry pavement. But when roads are icy or snow covered, driving at the posted speed limit may be too fast for conditions. The slogan ‘Snow Means Slow’ also applies to four-wheel drive and other heavy-duty vehicles, which usually need just as much distance to stop as other vehicles.  A citation for driving too fast for conditions costs $213.10 with four demerit points assessed on the driver’s record. (Wis.Stat. 346.57(3))

Winter weather also can limit visibility, so drivers must remove all frost, ice and snow from their vehicle’s windows. To see safely in all directions, you need to clear more than just a small patch on a windshield or rear window. Clearing snow and ice from the lights, hood and roof also helps improve visibility and safety.

According to state law, a vehicle’s windshield, side wings, and side and rear windows must be kept clear at all times. Violating this law costs $175.30 with two demerit points. (Wis. Stat. 346.88(4))

During severe winter storms, the safest decision often is to not drive until conditions improve.   Law enforcement officers frequently respond to vehicles in the ditch and chain-reaction crashes when motorists really should not have attempted to travel. Slowed or stalled traffic on slippery roads also delays snowplows and tow trucks, which are trying to get the roads cleared.

To minimize the dangers of winter driving we offer the following common-sense safety tips:

Always wear your seat belt. You and your passengers absolutely need this protection even in low speed “fender-bender” crashes that frequently occur on slick roads.

Don’t use your cruise control in wintry conditions. Even on roads that appear clear, there may be slippery spots, which can cause a loss of traction and a spinout if the vehicle is in the cruise-control mode.

Watch for slippery bridge decks. They ice up quicker than adjacent pavement.

Look farther ahead than you normally do. If vehicles ahead of you are swerving or show other signs of loss of traction, you should slow down and take extra precautions.

Brake early. It takes much longer to stop in adverse conditions.

Don’t pump anti-lock brakes. With anti-lock brakes, the correct braking method is to “stomp and steer.”

Don’t be overconfident about the traction and stopping distance of four-wheel drive vehicles, which generally won’t stop or grip the road any better than two-wheel drive vehicles.

Avoid cutting in front of trucks, which take longer than automobiles to slow down or stop.

Leave plenty of room for snowplows. By law, you must stay back at least 200 feet from the rear of a snowplow.


Drive Safely,

Sheriff Mick Fink