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The first snowfall, followed by heavy sleet, caused hundreds of accidents and at least four deaths across Minnesota this week. St. Augusta has already seen 16.5″ of snowfall; it is expected that a potent snowstorm will continue to unfold across the upper Midwest as it tracks into the Great Lakes.

Before winter gets in full swing, this is the perfect time to remind drivers nationwide about the importance of preparing one’s self and vehicle for the winter ahead. If you have not done so already, winterize your vehicle. Schedule a complete maintenance check-up for your vehicle. Stock your vehicle with an ice scraper and snow brush, jumper cables, blanket, flashlight, batteries, a first aid kit, non-perishable food, and extra clothing to keep warm and dry. Equally important is to keep your gas tank near full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.

The best advice during wintry conditions is to not drive at all, if you can avoid it. If you must go out, the first rule of driving in hazardous conditions is to use common sense.

• Clean and defrost windows before getting behind the wheel.
• Turn on your lights to increase your visibility to other drivers.
• Start out slowly and test your steering control and braking ability.
• Keep a safe distance between yourself and the vehicle in front of you. Allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.
• Begin slowing down at least three times sooner than you normally would when turning or stopping.
• Brake gently to avoid skidding and losing control of your vehicle.
• If visibility is low, slow down. If you can’t see more than a few feet in front of your vehicle, it is unsafe to drive.
• Use extra caution on bridges, overpasses, and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first.

Driving under hazardous conditions, such as snow, sleet, and ice, is a matter of preparation, practice, and caution. Even the smallest amount of precipitation can cause the roadways to become slick, hindering your ability to maintain control and stop your vehicle. It is helpful to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, to become familiar with how your car handles. Consult your owner’s manual for tips specific to your vehicle.

Please do your part to ensure your own safety and the safety of others this winter by being prepared before the first snowstorm hits your area.

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

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