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Winter Driving In Michigan: Proceed With Caution
As the weather turns cold and snow becomes a semi-permanent fixture, Michigan drivers must be extra careful to avoid serious accidents and injuries.

As the weather turns cold and snow becomes a semi-permanent fixture, Michigan drivers must be extra careful to avoid serious accidents and injuries. Historically motor vehicle accidents spike between the months of November and February. In 2008, 43 percent of all crashes occurred in these four months, along with nearly 37 percent of the road injuries.

No one can prevent all car accidents, but drivers can take precautions to ensure that they are ready to respond to any situations that might arise.

Put away the cell phone.

In late November, a Michigan teen was killed in Blackman Township when she rear-ended a semitrailer that was moving more slowly in front of her. Police concluded that she had been texting at the time.

Texting drivers have been getting a lot of heat lately. In Michigan, cell phones are currently only banned for teenage drivers on probationary licenses, but two bills in Washington are vying to impose a nationwide ban for all drivers.

Even though texting is still legally permissible for most Michigan drivers, the safest bet is simply to put the phone away. This is especially true in winter, when slippery roads and decreased visibility cause enough headaches.

After parties, get a cab or have someone else drive.

Christmas parties and New Year celebrations offer plenty of opportunities to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. Drivers always need to be in control, but this is particularly important when wintry conditions make driving more challenging. After drinking, give someone else the keys.

Michigan has strict drunk driving laws and even a first offense can net a six-month license suspension. A second offense can result in up to a year-long prison sentence and a third offense is a felony.

Equally importantly though, an accident caused by driving under the influence of alcohol can have lifelong consequences. It simply isn't worth the risk.

Cars must be ready for winter driving.

Check the tires. In Michigan many consider snow tires an essential, but at minimum drivers should have all-season radials. Even with snow tires, there's no substitute for careful driving and awareness of surroundings.

Before pulling out, fully clear the windshield of snow and ice. Don't scrape just enough to peek through and don't forget the back and side windows. It's not enough to just be able to see what's directly ahead. Take the extra few minutes to make sure the full range of vision is available.

Be prepared for "worst case scenarios."

Most of the time, drivers get from one place to the next without getting stuck in the snow, waiting to be rescued or wandering out of the car for help. Still, it doesn't hurt to be prepared. Don't leave home without a warm jacket, hat, gloves, boots and other appropriate winter clothing. Cars should be well-stocked with extra blankets, a first aid kit, a flashlight and water.

Drive as if life depended on it

Most people drive safely, but one can never be too alert behind the wheel. Even when everyone is paying attention, cars can (and will) skid. To avoid collisions, keep a safe distance from other cars and pay close attention to nearby vehicles switching lanes.

Of course, cars aren't the only danger on Michigan roads. When driving, make sure to scan the sides of the road for deer or other animals who might decide to cross with little or no warning.

Don't be afraid to slow down.

Late mornings will become much later, and much more frustrating, when they include car accidents. If the conditions warrant a slower speed, slow down. Safety should come first.

Even when drivers take every available precaution though, accidents happen. Following a car accident, contact an experienced Michigan attorney.

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