Winter is coming! Does the Lake Oswego Police Department have any tips for driving in bad weather?

(A Lake Oswego police officer or firefighter answers readers' questions each week in this space. To submit a question, call Editor Gary M. Stein at 503-636-1281 ext. 102 or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Winter is coming! Does the LOPD have any tips for driving in bad weather?

That's a great and timely question. Here are the reminders we send out to our department:

Driving safely on icy/snowy roads

VEACH• SLOW DOWN and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.

• Brake gently to avoid skidding. If your wheels start to lock up, ease off the brake. Smoothly apply brakes, gas and steering as needed.

• Turn on your headlights to increase your visibility to other motorists.

• Keep your lights and windshield clean.

• Always approach intersections cautiously and visually clear them before entering.

• Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.

• Don't use cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.

• Be especially careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first.

• Don't pass snow plows and sanding trucks. The drivers have limited visibility, and you're likely to find the road in front of them worse than the road behind.

• Remember that a four-wheel-drive vehicle provides additional traction that is useful for going through deep snow, but it does not stop any faster.

• Ice can form on road surfaces anytime the air temperature drops to 40 degrees or less.

• Don't stop if you can (legally) avoid it. There's a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.

• Don't power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill as slowly as possible.

• Don't stop going up a hill. There's nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.

If you get stuck...

• Do not spin your wheels. This will only dig you in deeper.

• Turn your wheels from side to side a few times to push snow out of the way.

• Use a light touch on the gas to ease your car out.

• Clear snow away from the wheels and the underside of the car.

• Pour sand, gravel, or salt in the path of the wheels to help get traction.

• Try rocking the vehicle. Shift from forward to reverse, and back again. Each time you're in gear, give a light touch on the gas until the vehicle gets going.

More importantly, if you are not prepared to drive in inclement weather, please don't. And another piece of advice: If you see five cars on the side of the road you're trying to navigate, that's usually a pretty good indicator that you should stay off that road or you're going to be number six. We truly encourage people to stay home. If you absolutely must travel, please leave plenty of distance between you and other vehicles and use traction control tires or chains.

As always, if you see a traffic condition you believe is dangerous, please call the Lake Oswego Police Department at 503-635-0238.

— Motor Officer Denton Veach

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