The onset of winter often gives meaning to the song, “Slip Slidin’ Away.”
Last weekend was no exception, as some motorists discovered that the nearer they came to their destinations, the more they were “slip sliding away.”
Adverse weather conditions led to law enforcement and emergency crews responding across the region to vehicles sliding, rolling and even running into trees. Drivers were quickly reminded of the wrath of winter. It seems that every year the first storms of the season are associated with numerous accidents when motorists find themselves unfamiliar with maneuvering winter driving conditions.
Thankfully, there were no fatalities in the local accidents that resulted from winter rearing its head. In the U.S. each year, approximately 7,000 roadway deaths and 450,000 injuries are associated with poor weather-related driving conditions.
Besides driving too fast for weather conditions, some of the leading causes of fatal roadway crashes are failure to keep in the proper lane or running off the road; driving under the influence; failure to yield the right of way; distracted driving; operating in an erratic or reckless manner; and failure to obey traffic signs and signals.
When you add talking on the phone and texting to the mix, the risk for accidents and deaths increases greatly.
Winter can bring a combination of slush, ice, snow and lower temperatures to our already shorter daylight hours, creating hazardous driving conditions.
Wintertime is time to slow down and allow for extra time to get to your destination. It is also a good time to share AAA Motor Club’s refresher on driving in snow and ice:
• Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for regaining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
• Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning — nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
• The normal dry pavement following distance of three to four seconds should be increased to eight to 10 seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
• Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
• Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until a traffic light changes, do it.
• Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
• Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
• Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
If you have to be out when the road conditions are less than desirable, we encourage you to slow down and allow for plenty of stopping distance for all vehicles. And, as always, put your seatbelt on.
Terri Lynn Oldham House