This is how you stay safe while driving this winter

It’s Winter Weather Awareness Week in North Dakota-- the time emergency managers say you should brush up on what to do to protect yourself, your family, and your property from extreme winter weather. One of the most dangerous parts of winter is driving in snow and ice.

The first line of defense for staying safe in severe winter weather is knowing when and where life-threating weather is going to hit. This includes knowing what the watches, warnings, and advisories issued by the National Weather Service mean. Above is a chart on the winter headlines from the local NWS offices. We will relay these during our weathercasts when they are issued.

If you know that snowfall or extreme cold is on the way and still need to venture on the roads, there are a number of steps to take to stay safe:

• NEVER USE CRUISE CONTROL ON SLIPPERY WINTER ROADS!!

• Before you travel, be sure your vehicle is equipped with a winter survival kit and ensure your vehicle always has plenty of gas in case you become stranded. Winter survival kits can be purchased commercially, or you can build your own. Some items to place in the kit include a blanket, extra clothes, hand warmers, a flash light, extra batteries, a shovel, sand and high energy foods such as nuts, candy bars and raisins.

• Always let someone know your travel plans, and check the latest weather forecasts and road conditions before you leave.

• Road condition information is available from the North Dakota Department of Transportation (NDDOT) or by dialing 511.

• The North Dakota Highway Patrol (NDHP), other law enforcement agencies and the NDDOT coordinate road closures, Travel Alerts and No Travel Advisories.

• Travel Alerts: issued to alert motorists that areas of challenging winter driving conditions may be encountered on roadways. Conditions are such that motorists can still travel, however, they should be aware that rapidly changing conditions may result in travel delays due to reduced speeds and visibility.

• No Travel Advisories: issued when conditions warrant no travel but not a road closure. No Travel Advisories have the potential to change to a Road Closure if conditions deteriorate. No Travel Advisories are issued for public safety to encourage motorists not to venture out onto the roads.

• Anyone who knowingly proceeds past a road closure device is in violation of state law carrying a $250 fine. This action also puts the lives of emergency response personnel in danger should they have to rescue you.

• DON'T CROWD THE PLOW! Remember to stay well back of plows (at least 5 car lengths) to avoid blind spots, sand and white out conditions caused by plowed snow. Never assume that you will have good traction even if the road has just been sanded.

• DON'T GO FAR, STAY WITH THE CAR! If you become stranded, do not leave your vehicle, wait for help to come to you. It is possible to become quickly disoriented in blinding snow and blizzard conditions and overcome by bitterly cold temperatures. It is often difficult to correctly judge distances, and a farmstead that appears to be close may be miles away, a walk you are not prepared for in a winter storm.