Editorial: Ice and snow, take it slow
We've all seen that driver -- the guy who zips down the highway at unsafe speeds on snow- or ice-covered roads. Or the motorist who refuses to give room to law-enforcement officers or tow-truck drivers doing their dangerous jobs along a roadside.
We've all seen that driver - the guy who zips down the highway at unsafe speeds on snow- or ice-covered roads. Or the motorist who refuses to give room to law-enforcement officers or tow-truck drivers doing their dangerous jobs along a roadside.
Eventually, easily avoided mishaps are bound to happen.
For example, a North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper and three others barely escaped injuries earlier this month when a driver slammed into a NDHP cruiser parked along U.S. Highway 2 near Larimore. Slippery road conditions played a part in the crash, and visibility was only about 100 feet.
In Wyoming last month, a state trooper was in his vehicle at the scene of a crash on Interstate 80 near Rock Springs. A tractor-trailer lost control on the icy road and smashed into the parked cruiser. Luckily, the trooper suffered only minor injuries.
And last winter in Oklahoma, a trooper was investigating a previous accident and was struck by a car that lost control on an icy road. The car hit the trooper directly in a crash that was caught on the trooper's dash camera. Miraculously, the trooper survived, although it took nine months for him to fully recover from his injuries and return to work.
The list could go on and on.
Hundreds of near-misses likely happen every time a storm rolls into the northern plains. We see it ourselves, when drivers refuse to give adequate space to law-enforcement officers, snowplow drivers and private tow-truck operators.
The Herald received a complaint from a reader earlier this week after a woman witnessed a near-miss between a tow-truck driver and a motorist overdriving conditions on a local roadway. It was infuriating, the woman said, because some motorists refuse to use common sense when they drive in wintry conditions. Someone could have been killed, she said.
That's difficult to hear, because we like to think residents of this region understand better than anyone how dangerous winter driving can be. But for every nine drivers who cautiously react to these conditions, there seems to be one joker who thinks he can win a game of chicken against Mother Nature. Often, he gets away with it; sometimes, other people get hurt, maimed or killed.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 1,300 people are killed and 116,800 injured annually in snow- or ice-related crashes nationwide. Our hunch is that every law-enforcement officer and tow-truck driver in the Dakotas and Minnesota has a harrowing story of a near-miss on a snowy roadway.
That's a tough way to make a living, and their families must dread this time of year.
As the brunt of winter settles on the Red River Valley, please consider a few simple suggestions:
▇ During times of snow or ice, slow down and increase following distances.
▇ Slow down and, when possible, move over for any law-enforcement vehicles stopped alongside the road with their emergency lights flashing. Same goes for DOT maintenance vehicles.
▇ Slow down for tow-truck drivers and broken-down vehicles, too. Change lanes, if it is safe to do so.
▇ Respect pylons and flares that sometimes are set up to alert drivers of danger ahead.
▇ Before traveling, check road conditions and weather forecasts. A good place to do so is the extremely handy weather app from local television station WDAZ.
▇ Turn on your headlights. This increases visibility to other motorists and snowplow operators.
▇ Stay at least five car lengths behind snowplows.
▇ Don't use cruise control on slippery surfaces.
▇ Be patient. Allow plenty of time to arrive at your destination.
-- Korrie Wenzel for the Herald