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Comments from Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap
Winter Driving in Maine
November, 2005

Whether we like it or not, it’s that time of the year once again.  Winter driving season is beginning.  With that in mind, we should all take a moment to remember key safety considerations and equip our vehicles for the months ahead.  Some of these reminders apply year-round, but are no more important than during the winter driving season when the weather and road conditions can be especially hazardous. 

Tune Up.  Make sure your vehicle’s maintenance is up-to-date and your tires are in good condition.  Having your car or truck inspected by a mechanic before the snow and ice arrive can prevent headaches or worse this winter.

Buckle up.  Start every trip, whether across town or cross country, by putting the seat belt on and making sure all passengers are secured.  Although seat belt use has increased in Maine, there are still too many people who ignore the documented safety benefits and refuse to buckle up.  Wearing a seat belt makes common sense, and it’s the law.

Slow down.  Take it easy on Maine roads this winter.  Getting to your destination in one piece is far more important than shaving off a minute or two by exceeding the speed limit and running red lights.  Don’t take chances—speed limits are established with safety in mind.

Stock up.  Make sure your vehicle is equipped with supplies that can save your life if you break down.  If you already keep supplies, take time to double check that they’re in good condition.  In addition to jumper cables, basic tools, a flashlight, reflectors, a first-aid kit and windshield wiper fluid—items for all seasons—consider adding the following:

  • Sturdy ice scraper with brush and collapsible shovel;
  • Blanket and warm clothes, including a hat and gloves;
  • Container of sand or cat litter;
  • Bottled water and supply of high calorie food, such as granola bars or candy;
  • Antifreeze and a container of de-icer;
  • Empty gas container; and
  • Extra batteries for flashlight.

Shop around.  Many auto supply stores and large retailers sell emergency kits for vehicles.  If you’re just starting to equip your car, truck or RV, one of these pre-packaged kits might be the most economical way to begin.

Stay Alert.  Most of us are familiar with the extra uncertainties of winter driving, like ‘black ice’ and the hazardous nature of that seemingly harmless thin coating of snow on a road surface.  Because of the added dangers, it’s important to remain especially alert while driving during the cold weather months.  Avoid operating a vehicle while tired or unusually distracted, and refrain from using a cellular phone while behind the wheel.

Remain sober.  Drinking and driving is unwise anytime of the year.  OUI is a very serious offense.  The State of Maine has been a leader in addressing drunk driving, and recent legislative action has strengthened our laws.  Drinking and driving is a disaster waiting to happen.  Adding inclement weather and slippery conditions only enhances the changes for disastrous consequences.

Stay Informed.  Keep up on weather reports and travel conditions.  Plan accordingly.  Never take chances when the forecast calls for snow, mixed precipitation or severe temperatures.  Put trips on hold and enjoy the weather from a safe vantage point.

If we follow these tips and recommendations, everyone will be safer and more secure on Maine’s roads and highways in the coming months.  And we’ll all be able to enjoy the spectacular beauty and array of outdoor activities Maine offers in the winter.  For more information or assistance from the Department of the Secretary of State, please send a message to SOS.Office@maine.gov or call (207) 626-8400.