Be Prepared and Safe While You Drive This Wisconsin Winter

By Ed Vopal, President
Wisconsin Association for Justice

December 2011

When the snow and ice comes to Wisconsin, drivers often have to remember how to get around safely again.  Preparation can be the difference between safe travel and an accident.

In early February 2008, a heavy snowstorm combined with strategic accidents on Interstate 90 in southern Wisconsin to cause an extreme traffic jam that stranded many drivers in their cars.

As many as 2000 vehicles were stuck in a foot of snow, some of them for 12 hours or more.
It is likely that many of those drivers, traveling between Janesville and Madison, did not expect a hitch in their travel plans – much less to have to sleep in their vehicles overnight on the interstate with no way to escape.

So, as you patiently get your “snow legs” again, first keep in mind the following tips from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (DOT):

· Clear snow and ice from all car windows and lights before driving.
· Go slowly and pay attention. (Don't try to out-drive the conditions. Remember the posted speed limits are for dry pavement.)
· For more tips, see: http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/motorist/winterdriving/driving-tips.htm

Next, make sure your automobile insurance is current, and that it provides you with sufficient coverage in case of an accident.  December is a month in which many drivers pay their biannual or annual auto insurance premiums.

Wisconsin Association for Justice (WAJ) offers a brochure, Understanding Auto Insurance, which helps drivers understand what coverage they may need, and the benefits of optional coverage.  It is available at www.wisjustice.org, under “The Truth About the State of Justice” and then “Consumer Resources.”

If you are driving in remote areas – or even on a major interstate highway - you could become stranded this winter due to severe weather conditions.  Even with the best preparation, it is wise to remember some tips about how to react in case you are stuck.  Check the seven tips from the DOT: http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/motorist/winterdriving/stranded.htm

If you are forced to stay in your vehicle in a remote area, the DOT also provides detailed instructions for creating a winter “coffee can survival kit,” which includes methods for staying warm, hydrated and alert while waiting for help.  Find out more at: http://www.dot.wisconsin.gov/safety/motorist/winterdriving/survival-kit.htm

Finally, one of the best ways to be prepared for winter driving is to know the weather forecast before you begin a trip.  Remember you can call 511 to find out the current road conditions, or check the internet at www.511wi.gov for the latest information online.

For more information about the Wisconsin Association for Justice, see WAJ's website at www.wisjustice.org, or call 608-257-5741.

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Edward J. Vopal is president of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, and a shareholder at Habush, Habush & Rottier, in Green Bay.

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