Be a smart driver this winter

In South Dakota, driving is just one thing we all have to do. It has become second nature. However, the harsh winters and terrible road conditions can throw off any good driver.

Believe me because I was one of those bad drivers who didn’t know how to drive in the winter. Despite living my entire life in South Dakota, I am still learning how to navigate those icy roads and when to just stay home.

Around two years ago, I was in an accident. It was a stormy night in the middle of February. I was not being smart and I paid the price. I was driving on the Interstate in not-so-great road conditions. I thought I was doing alright though, my car could handle anything and so could I.

I was only 20 miles away from my destination when I lost control of my car going way too fast on the interstate. I spun twice before I landed in the ditch facing oncoming traffic.

Luckily, I didn’t hit any other cars or one of those sneaky mile markers. I sat in the ditch for a moment before calling for help.

And that was the scariest moment of my life. Each time a car drove by with their headlights, it was like a bright light shining on my stupidity of driving so badly in these road conditions.

Obviously I was rescued and was safely returned to school. I learned more in that hour I spent in the ditch than I did an entire week of school (don’t worry, I didn’t attend SDSU at the time).

To this day, I’m an advocate for winter weather preparedness and safe driving. So don’t be like myself two years ago. Learn from my mistakes.

I was going much faster than I should have been. You should always slow down and drive the conditions, not the speed limit. It’s okay to drive like a grandma occasionally.

Try to avoid doing anything suddenly, such as lane changing or pushing on the brakes. When you are slowing or coming to a stop, begin slowing down well in advance of your normal slowing or stopping distance. Pump the brake pedal if you don’t have an ABS (Anti-lock Brake System).

You should avoid passing someone by changing lanes. Oftentimes, one of the lanes is worse than the other. Also, you shouldn’t be passing anybody because that requires speeding up, which you should not be doing.

Absolutely do not use cruise control. That’s one of the worst mistakes you can make. Always keep a good distance between you and the car in front of you.  If you do need to make sudden stop or something, you need some breathing room. If you drive too close, you better make sure you have car insurance; probably some health insurance too.

Be extra careful when you are approaching bridges or overpasses. They tend to be worse than the rest of the roadway. They may have snow or ice on them.

You should always check the road reports before driving. You can watch the news, go online to www.safetravelUSA.com or even call 511, which is the number for travel information.

South Dakota road conditions can be unpredictable and deadly. There are numerous car accidents each year and many of them could have been avoided if the drivers were being smart about their driving. 

So when it comes to winter weather, think long and hard if you want to be driving. It’s important for you and everyone else on the road.

So please, be a smart driver this winter.