Drivers Reminded to use caution as Winter season nears

A look back at the most recent motor vehicle crashes in the area shows one consistent cause: failure to drive in response to the current conditions.

When a surprise storm recently delivered freezing precipitation instead of the anticipated rain many area motorists were caught short before putting on snow tires. Several others are now staring at big repair bills authorities say could have been avoided if they had just slowed down.

“A significant number of traffic crashes occur on the ice, snow and wet roadways simply because motorists are driving too fast for the conditions and are following the vehicle in front of them too closely,” Troop G Commander Major William S. Sprague said recently. The New York State Police have a straight forward and simple list of reminders and recommendations for driving when the Mother Nature decides it’s winter.

First, leave extra time; this is self explanatory. Know getting to your destination will take longer than when the roads are dry and the sky is clear.

The second recommendation dovetails into the first suggestion: Slow down. It is much easier to come to stop from 35 mph than 45 or 50 mph or more.

“Slow down is the key everyone can’t expect to get there as fast as they would in dry weather,” Granville Village Police Sgt. David Williams said.

Police say keeping your distance is another key that combined with the other two precautions can go a long way toward keeping your vehicle out of the ditch or the body shop. “Any time you reduce traction, reducing the amount of time you need to come to a safe stop you need to think of that two or three seconds, but that’s dry weather perfect conditions you’ve got to give yourself more time, a wider reactionary gap,” Williams said.

Officials also remind drivers that it is against the law to talk on a cellular telephone while driving.

Police say avoid any distractions when driving but this becomes doubly important when driving conditions deteriorate in bad weather.

Motorists are reminded that in cold weather surfaces of bridges freeze sooner than other roadways, so caution should be used when crossing bridges or elevated roads. Finally police recommend taking additional time speaking with younger, inexperienced drivers at this time of year to remind them of the precautions listed above.

Beyond that, Williams said, preparing your vehicle for driving is important particularly snow removal.

“Be sure to fully clean your windows from ice, snow or whatever. That little ‘porthole’ people clear doesn’t help; you need to be able to see to make safe decisions,” Williams said. Scraping off just enough ice or removing just enough snow to be able to see outside of the cab is no way to drive safely, he said.

Be sure to clean of the top of any vehicle to avoid a potential hazard for yourself and other drivers. The built-up snow on top of an SUV can blow off in chunks and strike other windshields or slide forward when the warmed up vehicle comes to a stop; either way at least one driver will be having trouble seeing.   

“You may think that’s good enough to drive with, but it’s really not safe especially in the morning when you’ve got kids on the way to school and you’ve got school buses and kids crossing the street,” Williams said.

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