All of Michigan’s seasons have their challenges but winter has to be near the top when it comes to all the various and oftentimes dangerous weather condition we must navigate during those months.

According to the state’s Office of Highway Safety Planning, there were 202,232 crashes reported in Michigan on icy, snowy, or slushy roads, during the 2016 to 2020 winter seasons. Those crashes resulted in 370 fatalities and 2,530 suspected serious injuries.

Staying safe when we’re out and about in winter means we must be prepared and vigilant. Yes, we’re grateful for the local road commissions and their staff who work hard to keep our roads safe in the winter, but drivers must do their part too. In a recent press release a Michigan Department of Transportation official made a great point—the number one safety feature in any vehicle is the driver, he said.

Tuning in our own personal safety features means remembering that posted speed limits are for “ideal” driving conditions, something we don’t encounter as often in winter. It means keeping our vehicles well maintained and clearing off snow and ice before getting underway. Now’s the ideal time to keep your gas tank at least half-full to prevent the fuel lines from freezing up and consider gathering up items needed in an emergency—blankets, a phone charger, extra winter gear and more.

It means using caution around snowplows and staying patient if you find yourself “stuck” behind one. It means staying with your vehicle if it goes off the road and knowing the warning signs of hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning.

There are other seasonal considerations to make for the sake of others’ safety too. Snow plowing must be done so as not to create visibility issues for other motorists and sidewalks need to be cleared so that pedestrians can stay mobile and safe too.

We can’t anticipate everything that winter throws our way but we can be prepared both mentally and materially and do our part to keep us and our neighbors safe.