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“Teens need to be even more diligent in winter,” he said. “Put more space between you and the car in front of you,” he says.
Second, pay more attention. Put away the cellphone. Don’t turn around to talk to a friend sitting in the back seat.
“This is always true, but especially on slick and snowy surfaces,” Wade said. “You can be going 20 mph but if you’re not paying attention, you’re not seeing what’s going on. A car can slide sideways, even at 20 mph, for a long time.”
He offers teens the “10-second rule.” Pick a permanent object up ahead, such as a tree, a sign or a pole. Count to 10. If you get to that object before you reach 10, you aren’t looking far enough down the road. Try again with something farther away. Keep your focus there.
Following these rules “won’t make all the fatalities go away,” Wade acknowledges, “but they will lessen the numbers.”
Kathleen McDowell signed up her son, Michael, for an all-day winter driving class when he was 17. She told him it wasn’t optional. He’s 24 now and a very good driver, said his mom.
“It was the best money I spent,” said McDowell, referring to the Youth/Novice Crash Avoidance Course, offered through St. Cloud State University’s Center for Continuing Studies. The course (www.mnsafetycenter.org) is now a half-day course, offered monthly, for $70.
“It gave me more peace of mind,” McDowell said. “My son keeps those lessons in mind when he drives in this weather.”
McDowell also made Michael drive with her through every season. “I told my son, ‘there is no shortage of idiots on the freeway.’ ”
Similar to Street Survival, the St. Cloud course focuses on off-road recovery to prevent rollovers, skid control and the dangers of texting and driving. (Some insurance companies offer a discount for safe-driving courses, so check with yours.)
There’s a parental component, too. “This is a passion for us,” said Judy Dingmann, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Highway Safety and Research Center, which developed the course.
“That 30 hours behind the wheel is just not enough.”
Follow Gail on Twitter: @grosenblum