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Rural winter driving calls for preparations, extra caution

RICHMOND—Last week’s snow in southwestern parts of Virginia was an abrupt reminder that drivers should adjust their habits for wet, snowy or icy rural roads.

If you must go out in winter weather, be prepared, said Jimmy Maass, Virginia Farm Bureau safety manager.

“Probably the biggest concern in Virginia is ice, since you can’t see ice,” Maass said. “Be a little more cautious when roads are wet. What looks wet may actually be ice and may cause an accident more often than snow.”

In addition to making sure a vehicle is mechanically sound and ready for winter, Maass said, drivers should be prepared to wait for help in freezing weather in remote areas.
“There’s no guarantee that someone will be coming along soon, or that you’ll have cell phone service to call someone in a rural area,” he said. “So if you do have to venture out on bad roads, make sure you have an emergency kit. Always have extra water, snacks and a blanket or old sleeping bag to help you keep warm.”

Carrying some rock salt or cat litter and a small shovel can help drivers get out of some bad situations on their own, he added.

“Don’t forget, rural roads are not as wide as newer suburban roads. So use extra caution when passing someone. And look out for farmers using tractors and other machinery to move hay and feed cattle or to plow the road. Many times farmers are hired by the state to clear country roads.

“And remember, just because you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle doesn’t mean you can ignore winter road conditions or go wherever you want to go. Ice doesn’t respect four-wheelers,” Maass added.

The Virginia Department of Transportation has winter driving safety tips online at

Contact Maass at 804-290-1379 or Norm Hyde, VFBF communications, at 804-290-1146.
Posted in: Auto Safety


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