With winter firmly settled into western Montana, the Missoula Police department has two important words to keep everyone safe on the road.. SLOW DOWN!

Public Information Officer Travis Welsh said if drivers would simply slow down, many problems could be avoided.

"With these road conditions, the last thing you want is to get stranded, Welsh said. "To keep from losing control of your vehicle it's good to slow down. Give yourself plenty of stopping distance, not only at intersections but in traffic. Give yourself a little extra cushion in case you do need to stop. Drive smart. Watch out for the other guy and drive defensively and be aware that others may lose control and you may have to react."

Welsh said when traveling in the winter, having an emergency kit is vital.

"It's always good to have a flashlight, matches, a radio, an extra pair of gloves and maybe a hat," he said. "You might also want a tow rope, jumper cables, whatever you may need to survive in case you get stranded in your vehicle. You might also want to have some extra batteries for your flashlight and your cellphone."

The Montana Highway Patrol has released a video of an accident that occurred in 2014 near Frenchtown in which one woman was critically injured after a semi slid out of control and struck her vehicle, catapulting the woman across the road into the barrow pit. While troopers attempted to render aid, dozens of vehicles sped by despite the icy conditions, and many other vehicles lost control and crashed.

Welsh said there are now laws to govern how drivers behave in such conditions.

"The law states now that when you see an officer taking action on the side of the road, you have to move over to the farthest left lane away from that activity," he continued. "You must also slow down when you see evidence of a crash or emergency lights. You simply must slow down in such a situation. That video is a prime example of the worst that can happen in such a situation."

Welsh said there is another law that governs behavior in an emergency situation.

"If a driver knows or should have known that he or she has been involved in an accident, there is a responsibility to stop," he said. "And, if there are injuries, to stop and render aid to the other individuals."

So, let's review. The two most important words when driving in winter?


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