Winter driving in Montana is Snow Joke

Whether you've lived in Montana your whole life or just moved here, you need to be ready, careful, and alert on the road. Here are some tips from actual Montanans across the state about how to survive driving in the winter.

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Posted: 02/26/2024
 Safety    Motor Vehicle Accident  

Montana doesn't stop just because it snowed. While other states might declare it a state of emergency, Montanans simply go about their day just like any other. Winter driving in Montana, however, is still a risky and scary experience, especially when the first snowfall hits. Armed with a bit of overconfidence, even the most seasoned Montanans can find themselves unprepared for deadly snow packed roads.

Whether you've lived in Montana your whole life or just moved here, you need to be ready, careful, and alert on the road. Here is some advice from actual Montanans across the state about how to survive driving in the winter. You can also find our tips for safe driving in severe Montana Winters.

Added Patience During Winter

One of the most obvious things is to slow down and increase your following distance with the vehicle in front of you. This sounds simple enough but as vehicles slow down in town, traffic starts to congest which can add to the stress and tension with vehicles in close proximity. Montanans can handle their snow, but we typically don't handle traffic too well. It's important that you have patience in these situations. Constant lane changing, speeding, making sudden stops, and following too close only provokes other drivers and increases the possibility of an accident.

Pickup trucks are synonymous with Montana. While Wyoming takes the number one spot for total number of pickup truck owners (which is twice the national average), Montana is ranked number 2 with 1 out of every 3 people in Montana owning a truck. Pickup trucks sit higher on the road for better visibility for drivers. And, compared to other vehicles on the road, they are bigger and heavier while providing a lot of power. This combination can create overconfident drivers especially in risky situations like snow. Because of their increased size and center of gravity, pickup trucks are more likely to suffer a rollover accident, especially in inclement weather like snow or high winds. According to the 2021 data provided by the IIHS, you are 4 times more likely to be killed in a motor vehicle accident involving a truck. When it comes to winter driving, play it safe and keep the flow of traffic even if you're in a pickup truck.

Planning Ahead

Add plenty of time to your commute and if you can, consolidate your trips. Again, this seems like an obvious suggestion but is oftentimes the first thing disregarded. Most people have found a routine to their home and work schedule so waking up to find snow on the ground has the potential to mess up the entire day. It's important to keep an eye on the weather and road reports during the winter seasons for things like expected snow which can dramatically change in an instant and impact your drive time. Adding some time to your commute will help prepare you instead of relying on your routine and muscle memory. All Montanan's would agree, it's alright to be a little late if it means you're arriving safely.

Montana is also the 4th largest state and each of our 56 counties seem to have its own climate and weather patterns. If you have a highway commute, you'll not only have to check the weather for where you are, but you'll want to check the weather for where you're going too. It may be sunny where you are but driving through highway passes can be extremely dangerous so take caution and avoid them if possible.

Avoiding Distractions

Do not use your phone while driving. This is a good suggestion no matter what time of the year but becomes extremely important during the winter months. We've already written an entire article about cognitive distraction while driving but suffice it to say, checking your phone more than doubles your reaction time while driving which puts you, your passengers, and other drivers at risk.

Montana Winter Everyday Carry (EDC)

In Montana, we typically see the first snowfall in October and sometimes sooner. At the start of September, you should make sure you have extra clothes and a window scraper in your car. Snow on your vehicle quickly turns into ice depending on how cold it is outside. You can remote start your vehicle and try to warm it up enough to melt the ice but even the simplest ice scraper makes clearing your windows a breeze. It's extremely important though to clear off all of your windows, not just the driver side of your windshield. The snow and ice can block your view making it difficult to see other drivers especially at night. And during the winter months, it gets darker earlier in the evening so visibility while driving is critical.

Along with a scraper, you should pack extra gloves, boots, and socks along with a winter coat and hat in your vehicle. Montana has seen record levels of snow the last few years and your vehicle getting stuck is a real possibility even in town. Depending on the situation, you may have to get out of your car or truck into the elements. If you're not dressed for the weather, you're going to get cold real fast which can be dangerous. You'll not only want to pack extra clothes, but an extra blanket, snacks, water, and anything else you need.

Depending on where you are in Montana, it snows on average 30-45+ days during the year. Every year is different though and lately Montana has seen a record number of snowfall. This translates to several months of treacherous driving conditions. Planning ahead for these conditions is one of the best things you can do to ensure a safer winter driving experience.

Contact Us for Help

If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident and seriously injured, our Montana car accident lawyers are available to help. We have a winning track record of guiding our clients through an accident, and we take pride in helping our fellow Montanan's. Contact us for a free initial consultation and stay safe while driving!

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