Winter accidents hindered by prevention

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    By AMBER STAHR

    Winter is approaching fast, whether we like it or not.

    Along with winter comes the snow, and along with the snow comes extra driving hazards.

    In 1997, 5,079 automobile accidents occurred on icy or snowy road conditions, according to the Utah accident records system maintained by the Utah Department of Transportation.

    Many winter driving accidents can be prevented if drivers are aware of the extra dangers that exist in the winter, if they prepare their cars for winter, and if they slow down, said Doug Walters, safety trainer for Risk Management and Safety at BYU.

    People don’t realize how different driving in the snow is, Walters said. They tend to drive exactly the same as when it is dry.

    There are three basic mistakes drivers make when driving on the ice and snow, said Doug Bassett, Region 3 traffic engineer for UDOT.

    “They drive way too fast for the road conditions,” Bassett said. They also follow too closely to the car in front of them.

    “Also, people who don’t have experience driving in the snow have no idea how their car operates in the snow,” Bassett said.

    Another common mistake many drivers make is not leaving early enough, said Lonnie Gleave, region safety/loss control manager for UDOT. This does not allow them time to reach their destination safely in the snowy conditions.

    Accidents can also be caused by braking too fast on slippery road conditions.

    “The best thing to do is tap lightly on the breaks,” Bassett said. “Don’t over correct.”

    Walters said different types of brakes require different reactions to slippery road conditions.

    “If your car has anti-lock brakes, you can stomp on them as hard as you can,” Walters said. “Then steer out of the way.”

    Bassett also said a lot of people don’t have snow tires or studded tires.

    “They should have them,” he said.

    Good tires are an important part of winter driving.

    Many people don’t change their tires often enough, Walters said. They let them run way down so they lose their traction. These types of tires are not good for driving in the snow.

    “Stopping distances are ten times longer in the snow,” Walters said.

    He also said that when driving in the snow, drivers should not follow in the tracks of the driver in front of them.

    “Make your own tracks,” Walters said. “The snow in the tracks (of the car in front of you) is compressed into ice.”

    You will have more grip if you make your own tracks in the fresh snow, Walters said.

    He also added that people should get their car winterized before bad winter weather begins.

    Drivers should also carry extra equipment in their car, Walters said.

    “Throw (into the car) an old pair of boots and gloves,” he said. “If (you) do get stuck (you) can stay warm.”

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