GREAT FALLS — While the beginning of spring might bring milder temperatures, it’s more critical this time of year to drive safely.
Joe Benski, owner of Benski Towing and Recovery in Black Eagle, said driving during these pre-spring months can be the most dangerous: “We see most incidents in February and March with the bad weather and the winter.
Benski said the mixture of rain and snow makes for icy and unpredictable driving conditions. So as temperatures dropped significantly over the course of the past two days, accompanied by ice and snow, Benski said he witnessed several crashes - most of which took place Sunday morning.
“We see a lot more when the weather changes rapidly because the conditions of the road change and they’re not prepared for it,” Benski said.
He believes Sunday’s nice weather conditions led drivers to believe the road conditions were favorable as well. “They're so used to the roads being nice and clear and compatible to drive at high rate of speeds compared to it's not supposed to be in the winter time and they just kinda forget how to drive, and forget that it's winter still,” Benski said.
Benski added that tire quality also plays an important role in accident prevention.
Great Falls Autozone Store Manager Shaun Phares agreed, saying good tires are “everything” when it comes to avoiding a collision.
“They’re everything. It's part of the stopping, swerving. If you don’t have good tires and traction, whether it’s dry, rain, snow, you’re not gonna have the traction that you need to stop or avoid a collision or an accident,” Phares said.
In the winter months, snow tires have the most traction as they are one-directional (push moisture away) and are more pliable in cold weather than all season tires. Phares said since Montana experiences cold temperatures up until may, it's alright to keep your snow tires on until the weather gets warmer.
“You're good running your snow tires up until the point where it stays 40 degrees or plus. at that point you can make the decision whether you want to keep your dedicated winter tries on or put your all-season or summer tires back on,” Phares said.
Keep in mind if you do keep your snow tires on in the springtime, Montana state law requires you remove your snow tires by May 31st.
Phares also said drivers should continually check their tire pressure, as tire pressure is correlated with the tire’s traction. “Especially during the cold months, it can drastically reduce the pressure, which will wear out your tires faster, give you less traction. So it’s very important that you check it multiple times throughout the winter,” Phares said.
Here are some more tips for safe driving during the late winter-spring months:
- Slow down while driving
- Don’t drive with cruise control on
- Don’t jerk vehicle while driving in icy or snowy conditions