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How to drive safely in blowing snow and whiteout conditions

Michigan State Police offer tips for driving safely through the blowing snow and whiteout conditions expected Thursday night.

“When you talk about wind, the first thing that comes to mind is bridges,” Michigan State Police Trooper Indrit Molla said. “Normally, when we have high rates of wind, bridges tend to freeze faster than the regular road, so I would be extra cautious when driving on a bridge.”

But even if you’re driving on a regular stretch of road, or through the heart of downtown, Molla said you should slow down.

He recommends about 10 to 15 miles an hour below the speed limit in whiteout conditions.

“You don’t have to do the speed limit that’s posted on the road [during a storm],” Molla said. “It’s OK to slow down 10, 15 miles an hour, just as long as you’re safe. And keep some distance between other cars in case something does appear or does come unexpected. It gives you reaction time.”

Reaction time in stormy weather is key, Molla said, because though a roadway may look safe, things like black ice can fool you.

He said you should keep the length of a football field between you and a snowplow or other vehicles.

“It sounds excessive, but when you have that reactionary gap and you do start to slide off, you will be glad you did,” Molla said. “It gives you room to react and be safe.”

If you find yourself caught in whiteout conditions or severe blowing snow on a highway, Molla said you should try to get off at an exit and go to a nearby gas station. If that’s not possible, he said you can pull off to the side of the road and put your hazard lights on.

Molla said you should not drive with your hazard lights on while it is snowing. 

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