The Northland has seen its first snow and the forecast calls for future combinations of snow, rain and colder temperatures in coming days and weeks.
Each of these conditions affect traffic patterns, a Missouri State Highway Patrol press release states, and can make driving hazardous. Lower overnight temperatures may cause wet roadways to freeze and become slick.
MSHP urges people to pay attention to changing weather conditions and make smart decisions regarding travel this weekend. If conditions are bad, avoid driving.
If travel is necessary, MSHP insists individuals make sure vehicles are completely clean from snow and ice, use headlights to increase visibility and reduce speed when the roadway appears wet or snowy.
"Do not use cruise control and increase your following distance," the release states. "It is next to impossible to stop quickly on snow-covered or slick roads. Allow extra driving time for you to reach your destination at a slow, safe speed. Remember, Missouri law states if you’re using your windshield wipers, your headlights must be turned on."
During inclement weather, driving the speed limit is not "exercising the highest degree of care." Missouri law states the responsibility of exercising the highest degree of care while driving rests on the driver's shoulders.
If you choose to travel in inclement weather, MSHP suggests keeping the fuel tank at least half full. Having an ice scraper, battery booster cables, blankets, extra coats, gloves, water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, flashlight, small shovel, and a bag of sand or cat litter in the trunk can help in an emergency.
"It only takes one traffic crash to close a roadway for several hours," the release continues. "Being prepared is critical."
Before traveling, MSHP says to make sure cell phones are fully charged and available. Do not use cell phones while driving; and park vehicles well off the road or in a parking lot before placing a call.
The MSHP emergency number is 1-800-525-5555 (or *55 on a cellular phone). These numbers ring at the nearest troop headquarters.
If involved in a crash or have slid off the roadway, MSHP says to stay inside the vehicle with seat belts on. During inclement weather, multiple vehicles often crash or slide off the roadway at the same location.
If walking around a vehicle, chances of being injured or killed are much greater. The safest course of action is to contact law enforcement by cell phone and remain inside the vehicle. While in the vehicle, MSHP says to put it in park and turn off the engine.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a possibility if exhaust system is damaged or blocked by snow or debris.
There are also health concerns in cold weather conditions: Understand the signs of hypothermia and frostbite and how to prevent them. Create a plan to handle the possibility of becoming stranded. If there are no injuries in the crash, vehicles should be moved off the road to a safer location while waiting for law enforcement.
Drivers should check road conditions before driving. Consulting Missouri’s Road Condition Report by calling 1-888-275-6636 or checking the Missouri Department of Transportation Road Condition Map at traveler.modot.org/map/ can provide the most current road condition information available.
"Winter weather affects driving conditions and traffic patterns," the release states. "Please remember to buckle up, pay attention, be courteous, and obey all traffic laws."