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Reacquaint yourself with good winter driving habits

Winter weather has returned with a vengeance after a reasonably mild holiday season. We had a nice layer of snow and cool, not cold temperatures to help make Christmas nice and snowy, albeit a grey day.

But, now it looks like we're back into a cool spell after a messy rain/snow mix that made roads fairly treacherous.

It's worth noting that, considering the tough road conditions drivers appear to be moderating their speed and driving a little more cautiously. We Montanans are so confident of our driving sometimes that it's worth noting that we can all afford to slow down a little and drive a lot more defensively. 

Check weather and road conditions and plan accordingly. Getting ahead of schedule makes for a safer and calmer trip, whether you're just heading to work or taking a trip out of the valley. 

Also understanding your limitations, and those of your vehicle, make it easier for you to adapt to poor driving conditions. 

When in doubt, back away a bit from traffic and allow yourself to be slower than everybody else. 

Slow down and don't push the envelope when it comes to driving safely under questionable road conditions. Don't guess that you can drive normally. Know what speeds are safe. When in doubt, slow down ... slow way down until you know for certain what speeds are manageable.

If you don't already, put some warm clothing, blankets and other emergency gear in your truck or backseat. Breakdowns along a remote road can turn deadly if you aren't prepared to deal with adverse conditions until help can arrive. Cell phones are great tools to call for help, but we've got enough dead zones in the valley that keep us from totally relying on them to call for help.

And, please, keep your eye on your rear-view and side-view mirrors for emergency vehicles and pull over immediately to allow emergency crews to arrive on the scene safely and quickly. It's not just the law that requires you yield to emergency vehicles, it very well could mean the difference in saving a life of someone you know.

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