Missourians know to expect colder temperatures, snow, rain, ice, or a mix of these during the winter months.

Already, there has been several days with colder temperatures and snow in some areas of the state. The weather forecast indicates snow, snow showers, and even freezing rain are likely this week. Each of these conditions affect traffic patterns and can make driving hazardous. Lower overnight temperatures may cause wet roadways to freeze and become slick.

Motorists should check road conditions before driving to help determine if the trip can be completed safely. Consulting Missouri’s Road Condition Report (1-888-275-6636) or MoDOT’s Road Condition Map at http://traveler.modot.org/map/ will provide the most current road condition information available.

Troopers with the Missouri State Highway Patrol urge everyone to pay attention to weather conditions and make smart decisions regarding travel. If conditions dictate, avoid driving on Missouri’s roadways. If you must travel, make sure your vehicle is completely clean from snow and ice, use your headlights to increase visibility, and reduce your speed when the roadway appears wet or snow is present. Remember: Missouri law states if you’re using your windshield wipers, your headlights must be turned on.

During inclement weather, driving the speed limit is often too fast and not "exercising the highest degree of care." Missouri law (Section 304.012 RSMo) states the responsibility of exercising the highest degree of care while driving rests on the driver's shoulders. Please adjust your speed to the weather. Do not use cruise control and increase your following distance. It is next to impossible to stop quickly on snow-covered or slick roads. Allow extra driving time for you to reach your destination at a slow, safe speed.

If you choose to travel in inclement weather, keep your fuel tank at least half full. Having an ice scraper, battery booster cables, blankets, extra coats, gloves, water, non-perishable food, first aid kit, flashlight, small shovel, and a bag of sand or cat litter in your trunk can help in an emergency. It only takes one traffic crash to close a roadway for several hours. Being prepared is critical.

Before you travel, make sure your cell phone is fully charged and keep it with you. Do not use your cell phone when you are driving; park your vehicle well off the roadway or in a parking lot before placing a call. The Missouri State Highway Patrol emergency number is 1-800-525-5555 (or *55 on a cellular phone). These numbers ring at the nearest troop headquarters. We're here to help.

If you are involved in a crash or slide off the roadway, stay inside your vehicle with your seat belt on. During inclement weather, multiple vehicles often crash or slide off the roadway at the same location. If you are walking around your vehicle, the chances of being injured or killed is much greater. The safest course of action is to contact law enforcement by cell phone and remain inside your vehicle. When remaining in your vehicle, place it in park and turn off the engine.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is a possibility if the exhaust system was damaged or is blocked by snow or debris after a traffic crash or slide off. There are also health concerns in cold weather conditions: Understand the signs of hypothermia and frostbite and how to prevent them. Create a plan to handle the possibility of becoming stranded. If there are no injuries in the crash, the vehicles should be moved off the roadway to a safer location while waiting for law enforcement to arrive.

Winter weather affects driving conditions and traffic patterns. Please remember to buckle up, pay attention, be courteous, and obey all traffic laws. When weather conditions make driving hazardous, drive only when absolutely necessary.

Too many people die in traffic crashes each year in Missouri. The choices you make when you’re behind the wheel matter. Make good choices, so you’ll never have to say, “If I could just go back …”

Follow the Missouri State Highway Patrol on Twitter @MSHPTrooperGHQ

More From AM 1050 KSIS