Safety first: Use your resources, get prepared

Staff reports
Farm Forum

Technology can be a wonderful thing – especially when it comes to winter weather conditions and traveling. Safe Travel USA ( provides a map that links web users to travel information for all 50 states.

The map for South Dakota and neighboring states including North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska displays everything from road construction to road conditions. Clicking on a particular highway will display current road conditions, areas of construction, and the weather forecast.

Users can also zoom in on the interactive map to view areas of travel before venturing out in the cold. Several Department of Transportation cameras will also give potential travelers a first-hand look at the road and weather conditions.

Minnesota uses a different system than the states previously listed. However, all of the same information is available in a different format. The website can be found through the Safe Travel USA website or at

Many states have also adopted 511 traffic systems, which give travelers up-to-date information. Travelers can simply dial 511 right from the road, providing it is legal to use their cell phone while behind the wheel. When it doubt, or if weather and road conditions warrant, it is best to stop driving in a safe area before dialing.

Especially in South Dakota, weather conditions can change suddenly. The following are things to remember if you should become stranded during the upcoming winter months.

The number one thing to remember is to (1.) ALWAYS STAY WITH YOUR VEHICLE.


2. Run the engine no more than 15 minutes out of every hour. This both conserves gas and allows you to warm up.

3. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow.

4. NEVER go to sleep if the engine is running.

5. Eat high-energy food just before going to sleep to keep you warm. If the cold wakes you up, eat some more and add another layer of blankets or


6. Do NOT burn floor mats or any synthetic material to stay warm. The

fumes will be toxic.

Other tips:

1. Make sure your winter survival kit is in the back seat in case you cannot get into the trunk. For a list of survival kit must-haves, see page E4.

2. Keep your gas tank full.

3. Make sure your car battery is new or fully charged.

4. Always let someone know when you are on the road – when you left, which route you planned to take. Stick with the plan.

5. Do not drive until all your windows are completely cleared of snow.

6. Leave your headlights on so that other cars can see you.

7. Do not use cruise-control on icy or snow-packed roads.

8. Leave at least five car lengths between you and the vehicle in front of you.

9. Carry a fully-charged cell phone.

In all cases, the old mantra applies: It’s always better to be safe than sorry.