Wisconsin DOT: Winter safety tips; vehicle maintenance reminders

Wisconsin's Department of Transportation (DOT) released the Law of the Month on Wednesday, Jan. 4, reminding drivers that preparing themselves and their car is key to a safe winter season.

"A well-maintained vehicle is always important, but especially in harsh winter conditions. Check your vehicle to get to your destination safely," Superintendent Tim Carnahan said. "When you're driving in winter conditions, don't just prepare for the trip you anticipated; prepare for the unexpected."

Winter conditions can wear on your vehicle; WisDOT recommends checking these things regularly:

  • Keep the fuel tank at least half-full to prevent fuel lines from freezing and provide extra fuel if you get stranded; make sure electric vehicles are fully charged.
  • Check the battery's condition, anti-freeze, lights, and cooling system.
  • Replace worn windshield wipers and fill up washer fluid.
  • Have an emergency kit in every vehicle; include essentials like a blanket, flashlight, cell phone charger, and shovel.

According to a news release, proper tire care should be part of every driver's vehicle maintenance routine and can help prevent breakdowns and crashes. Tires are one of the most important safety features on a vehicle. 

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"Your safety and the safety of others depends on the effectiveness of the four tires of a vehicle," Superintendent Carnahan said. "The tire tread keeps a vehicle from slipping and sliding in wet or icy weather, so it's essential to take care of your tires."

WisDOT recommends people check tires and spares monthly for:

  • Pressure: Fill each tire to the manufacturer's recommendation to improve gas mileage and help tires last longer.
  • Tread: Depth should be at least 2/32 inches in every major tire groove.
  • Replace: when you can see President Lincoln's head if you insert a penny in the tread.
  • Damage: Repair cuts, bumps, or cracks as needed.

Before heading out in active weather, keep visibility in mind. According to the news release, state law requires drivers to turn on their vehicle's low-beam headlights whenever weather or other conditions make it difficult to see objects 500 feet ahead. Turning on the lights also helps ensure other drivers see your vehicle to avoid crashes.

WisDOT recommends clearing snow and ice from windows, lights, the roof, and the hood. It's required by law and keeps everyone on the road safer. Snow and ice sliding off the roof or blowing off the hood can be dangerous to other vehicles. Icy windshields can limit visibility and lead to crashes.

The news release stated that winter weather contributed to more than 15,000 crashes that killed 38 people in Wisconsin last season. For more information on keeping yourself safe, review the State Patrol's December Law of the Month for tips on winter driving safety.