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Alexandria police sergeant gives 2 winter driving tips

From 2016 to 2020, officers in the state reported snowy or icy road conditions in more than 79,165 crashes, according to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety.

Cars driving in the snow
Vehicles make their way through snowy conditions on Broadway Street in Alexandria on Friday, Jan. 14.
Travis Gulbrandson / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA โ€” The winter months can bring many inconveniences, but one of the things Minnesotans are most familiar with are poor road conditions.

Although the summer months are the deadliest on Minnesota roads, wintertime still leads to the most car crashes.

From 2016 to 2020, officers in the state reported snowy or icy road conditions in more than 79,165 crashes, according to the Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety. These crashes resulted in 181 deaths and 19,218 injuries.

Alexandria is not immune to this trend, with 81 property damage crashes in December 2021, and five injury crashes, according to information provided by the Alexandria Police Department.

By comparison, there were 60 property damage crashes and five injury crashes in October, when there was no snow.

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Sgt. Keith Melrose said the Alexandria Police Department almost always sees more crashes when the road conditions are snowy, such as they were last Friday, Jan. 14.

"I think with the snow, people are still trying to get to places they got to the day before when the roads were clear, and they're not realizing if it gets ice-packed, it gets slippery," Melrose said.

Beyond that, Melrose had two pieces of advice: Keep your car's windows clear so you can see everything around you, and slow down.

"Those are really the two biggest things," he said. "If you can see where you're going and you drive slow enough for the conditions that are out there, you're going to get there safely. That's really the best advice I can give."

Connor Illies, owner of the Central Lakes Driving School in Alexandria, also had some advice.

"The number-one thing I would tell people is to invest in a dedicated set of winter tires, but not everyone can afford that, so at least make sure your tires have enough good tread," he said. "Depending on how that is, you've got to drive a lot slower, or just choose to stay home."

The Office of Traffic Safety also had some tips for staying safe on winter roadways:

Increase safe stopping distance between vehicles.

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  • If skidding, remain calm, ease foot off the gas, and turn the steering wheel in the direction you want the front of the vehicle to go.
  • Do not use cruise control on snow/icy/wet roads.
  • If your vehicle has an anti-lock braking system, apply a steady firm pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump ABS brakes.

In addition, the Office of Traffic Safety also advises drivers to stay in their vehicle if they become stranded, and also to equip their vehicle with food and supplies for staying warm.
Melrose also advised against over-driving the conditions, although he said it's not something people always do.

"I usually drive around 20 miles an hour on (snowy days) and I get passed all the time," he said.

For more information about winter driving safety, visit the Department of Public Safety's blog at https://dps.mn.gov/blog/Pages/20211209-msp-top-10-winter-driving-tips.aspx .

Travis Gulbrandson covers several beats, including Osakis School Board and Osakis City Council, along with the Brandon-Evansville School Board. His focus will also be on crime and court news.
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