Winter safety tips

Person shoveling a sidewalk with red shovel.

Pushing snow out of the way, instead of lifting it, is a good winter safety practice.

As Minnesotans, we take joy in the beauty, stillness and unique recreational opportunities that accompany our famous winters. It’s also our duty to understand and be prepared for the dangers. Here are some winter safety tips from Dr. Chad Robbins, GRHS surgeon:

Driving Precautions

  • You’re more likely to drive too fast for the road conditions if you’re in a hurry, so give yourself plenty of time.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid a frozen gas line.
  • Don’t drive if severe weather is approaching. If you must drive in poor conditions, tell someone at your destination your expected arrival time and travel route.
  • Review information from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety about stocking your car for winter driving emergencies and what to do if you become stranded.
  • Stay at least five car lengths away from snowplows.
  • Never use cruise control on wet or icy roads.

Snow Removal Safety

  • Never, ever reach into a snowblower that is running!!!!!
  • Cold weather puts added strain on the heart. If you are over age 40 or relatively inactive, use caution when shoveling. If you have a history of heart trouble, check with your doctor first.
  • Shoveling is a weight-lifting exercise, so stretch before and after to avoid pulled muscles. Take frequent breaks while shoveling. And if your chest feels tight, stop immediately.
  • Lift with your legs, not your back. To engage your leg muscles, bend at the waist and “sit” into the shoveling motion, keeping your back straight.
  • Push the snow out of the way, rather than lifting it. Pick up only small amounts when necessary.
  • Avoid shoveling heavy, wet snow. Fresh snow is much lighter.
  • Dress in layers and be sure to wear warm socks and gloves to protect your toes and fingers from frostbite.

Ice Awareness

  • Keep a close eye on children when they are near ice.
  • Avoid alcohol when you’re on the ice. Alcohol causes the body to lose heat more rapidly and will slow your reaction time in an emergency.
  • Know the minimum ice thickness requirements for activities. You can review ice thickness guidelines at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website and download the DNR’s ice thickness guidelines wallet card to keep handy in your home or vehicle.
  • Always carry two large nails to use as ice picks to pull yourself out if you fall through thin ice.
  • Never drive on the ice at night.
  • Drive with your windows down and doors partially open to avoid becoming trapped if your car breaks through the ice.
  • Be sure to park vehicles at least five feet apart on the ice, and move them every two hours to prevent sinking.
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