Vehicles in a ditch along a highway or stuck in a snow bank on the side of a street are a familiar part of Wisconsin’s winter landscape. Although drivers try to blame slippery roads for losing control of their vehicles, frequently the truth is they were driving too fast for conditions.
“Driving at the posted speed limit often will be too fast for conditions when there’s ice, snow and slick spots on roadways or when visibility is reduced by snow, sleet and fog,” says Wisconsin State Patrol Captain Nicholas R. Wanink of the Wausau Post. “The speed limit is set for safe driving on dry pavement with good visibility. You might not be able to stop or control your vehicle at the posted speed limit on a slippery road or during hazardous weather.”
Slowing down when driving conditions are treacherous is not just common sense—it’s the law. It is illegal to drive at speeds that exceed what is reasonable and prudent under existing road conditions. Drivers are required to adjust their speeds to take into account both the actual and potential hazards due to weather, highway conditions or other traffic.
A violation of this state law costs $213.10 with four demerit points added to the driver’s record. A second offense within a 12-month period costs $263.50 with four additional points.
“The slogan ‘Snow Means Slow’ also applies to four-wheel drive and other heavy-duty vehicles, which can still slide, skid and fish tail while trying to slow down or stop on slippery roads,” says Captain Wanink. “If you drive too fast for conditions and slide off the road or crash, you likely will have to pay for an expensive traffic ticket plus towing and vehicle repair bills. It’s much cheaper, safer and certainly less frightening to maintain control of your vehicle by slowing down.”