Slow it down
Trooper Gardner offers tips for safe winter driving
With the temperatures dropping, it won’t be long before roads are covered in snow and ice and driving conditions become treacherous. Iowa State Patrol Trooper Paul Gardner offers some tips to stay safe while traveling this season.
“First off all, before somebody starts on the road we want to make sure they have clear visibility. That includes getting all the frost and snow off windshields, side windows, and back windows to have full visibility all around,” Gardner said.
He also said drivers need to be patient, cautious, and maintain a reasonable following distance. “When the roads are slippery and icy, your stopping distance is going to be a lot further,” he said.
Gardner also recommends slowing down and not using cruise control when roads are slick as these increase chances of losing control of the vehicle. Gardner said it is also important to have good tires with plenty of tread to maintain traction. “It’s amazing how many people we see with bald tires trying to get around in the snow and they don’t go very far,” he said.
Gardner said it’s important to make sure headlights and taillights are cleaned off to ensure other drivers can see your vehicle.
There are many items that are important to have in your vehicle in case of emergencies. “We encourage people to keep a first aid kit, flashlight, cell phone charger, some extra water and non-perishable food just in case they’re stranded just to ensure that you’re going to be able to make it through that time,” said Gardner.
Other suggested items include warm winter clothing such as gloves, hats, or boots, blankets or sleeping bags, sand or cat litter in case you need to add traction under your tires, jumper cables, a small or collapsible shovel, and a small tool kit.
One of the most important recommendations Gardner said he can make is to only travel if needed when weather conditions are dangerous. “When the National Weather Service issues a winter weather advisory or winter storm warning, heed that guidance of staying off the road unless it’s absolutely necessary,” said Gardner. “If someone gets into a crash, our response time depends on how bad the weather is and could be delayed considerably.”
Gardner said it’s imperative that those traveling need to monitor the weather ahead of time to avoid being caught in inclement weather.
“We’ve worked several blizzards where the visibility is zero and had to go help stranded motorists. If they can’t get around, the chances of us getting to them is slim to none and there are times where conditions are so severe that they pull the plows and don’t allow tow trucks to go out. If we can’t get to them, they’re probably going to be stranded in their vehicles overnight or until we can get them some help,” said Gardner.
In the case that someone is stranded in their vehicle, Gardner suggests alternating having the vehicle running for a bit to keep warm and then turning it off for a bit to save gas. He said it’s usually best to stay in the vehicle until help can get to you unless you absolutely know help is only a short distance away.
“If you feel you can walk safely, it’s a short distance, and you can see where you’re going, then that’s fine but if you’re a long ways from a place to get help, I would just stay in the vehicle until law enforcement, first responders, or a tow truck arrives,” he said.
Gardner said when visibility is low, people can’t see where they are walking and other motorists can’t see the person on the road.
“We’ve had cases where someone will step out of their vehicle during a snowstorm and get hit,” he said.