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Winter and the novice driver

AMES, Iowa – Jan. 19, 2012 – Getting behind the wheel for the first time on a wintery day can be nerve-wracking, even for an otherwise “invincible” teenager. Learning to drive can be scary for both the student and driving instructor, typically a parent or caregiver. Novice drivers need additional instruction on the safest methods of driving on snow and ice.

 Some tips for those assisting a novice driver include:

  • Test the waters (frozen water that is): Allow the young driver to practice in a vacant, snow- or ice-covered parking lot where slow-speed maneuvers can be mastered with little risk to the vehicle’s passengers and others. Practice braking and steering in skidding situations.
  • Give ‘em some room: Explain to the young driver the importance of maintaining adequate space between vehicles, demonstrating in a safe location the difference in stopping distance on dry pavement and slick roads.
  • See and be seen: Before starting out on the road, make sure the vehicle’s windows, headlights and taillights are cleared of ice and snow.
  • Make a smart choice: A novice driver’s first on-the-road experience with winter weather driving should not be during a major storm. It’s better to wait until conditions are less severe.
  • Take gradual steps: Start out having the teen practice driving on slippery roads in daylight. Once the driver has gained sufficient experience driving during the daylight hours, gradually expose them to driving on slippery roads at night when factors like black ice or whiteout conditions could be a factor.
  • Check it out: Winter weather puts your vehicle’s mechanical systems and performance to the test. Make sure the vehicle the novice driver operates is in top working order, including all mechanical systems, including brakes and the vehicle’s tires.
  • Be prepared: Always be prepared when traveling during the winter by carrying a winter survival kit in the vehicle. View the Iowa DOT’s winter preparedness video on YouTube with your novice driver at
  • Trip preparation – is the trip necessary? Often, delaying a trip by a few hours can give snow removal crews time to get the roads back to normal winter driving conditions. For road condition information, visit or call 511 (in Iowa) or 800-288-1047 (nationwide). For information from the Iowa DOT’s weather-reporting stations, including atmospheric conditions, pavement temperatures and traffic cameras, visit WeatherView at

The Iowa DOT is advising travelers to carefully monitor weather and road conditions.

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