It may not be snowing yet, but Winter Weather Awareness Day─November 15─is upon us. What better opportunity to plan for the cold weather months and the sleet, ice, and snow they bring? Cold weather patterns affect road conditions and drivers need to adjust their approach to travel.
There is no mystery to driving on ice: It’s dangerous and should be avoided when possible. What some people describe as “black ice” is simply ice on a paved roadway. Ice is transparent, thus allowing the roadway to be seen beneath. Drivers sometimes blame this condition for their traffic crash. However, it is a driver’s responsibility to exercise the highest degree of care while driving on Missouri’s roadways (Section 304.012 RSMo.).
Stopping quickly in the winter on snow-covered or icy roads is next to impossible. Use care by increasing your following distance as you drive. Ask yourself if the speed you’re traveling is safe for the weather conditions. Slow down when driving in snow or on ice. Driving the speed limit is not “exercising the highest degree of care” during inclement weather.
One traffic crash can affect traffic for hours during inclement weather. The Missouri State Highway Patrol suggests keeping your fuel tank at least half full. Having an ice scraper, tire chains, battery booster cables, blankets, extra coats, gloves, water, non-perishable food, flashlight, and a bag of sand or cat litter in your trunk can help when trouble strikes. Emergencies cannot be predicted, but planning ahead can help if one should arise.
If you have a cell phone, make sure it’s fully charged and with you when you travel. Please 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.
If you decide it’s necessary to drive in inclement weather, take the time to make sure your vehicle’s windows are completely cleared to ensure visibility. Clear your driveway so your vehicle enters the roadway safely. Allow extra driving time for you to reach your destination at a slow, safe speed. Remember: Missouri law states if you’re using your windshield wipers, your headlights must be turned on. It takes only a second to turn on your vehicle’s headlights. That second could make you more visible to other drivers and prevent a traffic crash.
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 than if you remain inside your vehicle. The safest course of action is to contact law enforcement by cell phone and remain inside your vehicle. 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 response.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol urges everyone to pay attention to the weather and plan ahead. Motorists are encouraged to check the 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/ can provide the most current road condition information available. Avoiding travel may be the safest decision.
Winter weather affects driving conditions and traffic patterns. Don’t drive if you can avoid it. But, if you drive pay attention, turn off your phone, be courteous, and obey all traffic laws. Remember: Always buckle up. Never drink and drive.