Weather is frightful ... but driving doesn't have to be

Sunday , January 14, 2018 - 12:00 AM

By JENNIFER GREENLEE
TX. Correspondent

If you’ve ever been driving in the snow, you know how unpleasant it can be. Instead of rocking out to music cruising along the highway, you’re fighting through snow, slush and black ice to reach a seemingly unreachable destination.

The slipping and sliding that come with inclement weather can be terrifying for new and old drivers alike.

Here are some tips for tackling drive time on winter’s frightening roads.

1. Be prepared

Part of being prepared is understanding what to prepare for, and on the roads that can mean anything. Some helpful things to keep in your car are tire chains, jumper cables, a windshield scraper, a blanket, a flashlight, extra batteries and a first aid kit.

Other suggestions that the experts from the Federal Highway Administration recommend are always have more than half a tank of gas, keep your cell phone charged or have a car charger for your phone with you, let whoever you are going to see know that you are on your way, and winterize your vehicle before the bad weather hits.

“When I got my first car, my parents made sure that I had a windshield scraper and a flashlight in my car,” said Naomi Daniel, a senior at an Illinois high school, in a text message. “(The windshield scraper) comes in handy when I get ready to leave for school so early.”

The temperatures in Daniel’s area often are -15 and below in the early morning. “I have to be prepared for anything, especially if my car battery doesn’t come on in the subzero mornings,” she said.

2. Slow down

“Over 1,300 people are killed and more than 116,800 people are injured in vehicle crashes on snowy, slushy or icy pavement annually,” according to information from Safe Winter Roads, an organization dedicated to safer streets and fewer deaths. 

The group says that every year, “nearly 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in vehicle crashes during snowfall or sleet. Each year, 24 percent of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on snowy, slushy or icy pavement and 15 percent happen during snowfall or sleet.”

We’re often in a hurry as drivers; with many people rushing around for work and other commitments, it can make it hard to feel OK to slow down. But slowing down is important in inclement weather.

Safe Winter Roads reports that “freeway speeds are reduced by 3 and 13 percent in light snow and 5 to 40 percent in heavy snowfall.”

Also, during holiday times, the FHA says that drinking and driving are especially prominent and that other drivers need to be wary of trusting others to always obey the traffic laws.

3. If conditions look bad, get off the road

Finally, if you feel it’s too risky to drive, you shouldn’t be on the roads. While cars seem impervious, it can be impossible to see in bad weather and can be deadly to you and the others around you.

“If I see the semi-trucks or moving trucks getting off the road, I know I need to pull off too,” said Emma Thomas, a junior at Clearfield High. Utah student. “They are typically professionals and know when the roads are just too much of a gamble to risk.”

Getting off the road somewhere where you don’t know anyone can seem scary, especially if the storm is forecast to last a long time or if you are low on fuel. But, if possible, pull off at a rest stop, gas station or other type of parking lot. If visibility is low and you can’t get to an exit, pull to the shoulder of the road, put your hazard lights on and leave your seatbelt on in case someone doesn’t see you.

Being late may seem terrible, but rushing in the snow or rain can be dangerous and even deadly. Even if you have commitments, a broken date is better than a dead one.

Jennifer Greenlee is a senior at Syracuse High School where she is editor of the school newspaper. Email her at jenniferjogreenlee@gmail.com.

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