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Safe driving: winter edition

Safe driving: winter edition

For many new drivers, and even for experienced ones, the task of driving in the winter weather can be daunting. This fear can be conquered, however. Knowing the ways to stay safe on snowy and icy roads can greatly lessen the likeliness of a weather-related accident and help keep drivers confident on the roads.

Katelynn Scheffer, Communications Department worker for the Indiana Department of Transportation: Northwest, encourages drivers to be aware of road conditions and how those conditions can impact one’s driving.

“The roadways are likely wet and slick in the winter due to the temperature, causing some dangerous situations for drivers.  While you can stop rather quickly on dry pavement, you want to give yourself extra time and distance to stop on wet and slick pavement.  Also, a huge difference between summer and winter driving is the amount of daylight we have.  During the winter, it gets dark much earlier and can cause some issues for drivers that now have limited visibility along with the wintry road conditions,” Scheffer said.

Drivers, especially new ones, should note the differences between summer and winter driving before getting behind the wheel.

“The amount of time it takes to stop is greatly increased in the winter. Hard packed snow or ice will make the stopping difficult. A good rule of thumb to use is to drop your speed by about 25% during winter driving. Slow down; give yourself space between vehicles,” Mike Luther, a retired driving instructor from LPHS, said.

Timing and speed are especially important in winter; INDOT lists the number one cause of winter accidents to be speed-related.

More than just watching speed and distance from one vehicle to the next, drivers should be prepared vehicle-wise.

“Inspect your vehicle.  Check your vehicle’s tires, wiper blades, fluids, lights, belts and hoses,” Scheffer said.

Luther noted that bad or balding tires can lessen one’s traction on the road, making it difficult for drivers to stop or resume driving.

While understanding one’s vehicle is important, there is an even more obvious, and often overlooked, inspection that all drivers should make before driving in the winter: a clean vehicle.

“Cleaning off your car is paramount so you can see,” Luther said.

When large pieces of ice form on the top of a vehicle, that ice can fall off of the vehicle and onto another. In other instances, stopping can cause ice and snow on the top of a vehicle to slide down the windshield, obscuring a driver’s view of the road.

Drivers should learn techniques to help them avoid causing or being in accidents, but they should also prepare for the event that an accident occurs. Should an accident occur, it is vital that drivers and passengers have necessary materials to stay warm, dry, and safe until help can arrive.

“People need to have a few items in their vehicle, i.e. a flashlight, blanket, water, some snacks, a first aid kit, and a cell phone,” Luther said.

Ultimately, the best way to prepare for safe winter driving is to stay informed in regards to weather and conditions. Moreover, practice makes for a confident and safer driver.

“Practice in empty parking lots. I’m not suggesting a doughnut session but to gain experience on handling the car on slippery roads,” Luther recommended.

To stay updated on travel conditions, and to find more tips for safe winter driving, visit https://www.facebook.com/INDOTNorthwest/.

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