Law enforcement agencies offer driving tips

Local departments cite common sense, preparation and caution as keys to staying safe on winter roads

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By RYAN SHERIDAN
Daily Press writer
Winter, and winter driving, is upon us.
With snow, sleet, ice and slush about to become regular hazards for the next several months, the Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Office, and Colorado State Patrol are asking drivers to prepare for winter road conditions.
All three departments are offering advice to keep this winter season safe.
Use common sense when dealing with winter conditions, slow down and realize that speed limit signs are for ideal conditions, and may not be appropriate in a blizzard.
"Just because the sign says 65 miles per hour doesn't mean you can travel at that speed," Colorado State Patrol Sergeant Hank Chase said. "The weather and road conditions warrant what speed is appropriate."
When dealing with winter conditions, drivers should avoid making any sudden movements and hitting the brakes hard, Chase said.
"Hitting your brakes hard in bad conditions will put you in a ditch faster than anything," he said. "Another thing I see is a lot of people swerving to the left when another car is coming into their lane. Don't swerve into the opposite lane go to the right, off the road if you have to.
"That's better than colliding head-on with the other car."
Wearing seatbelts is an all-season rule, but is especially important during the winter season.
"I've been doing this for 25 years, and I've only pulled one dead person out of a seatbelt," Chase said. "And in that case, no matter what the person would have done they were going to die, because the accident was so massive."
Being wary when approaching intersections is another safety tip law-enforcement officials recommend.
"As you are approaching an intersection even one without a traffic control device you need to use extra caution," Craig Police Lieutenant John Forgay said. "You might have the right of way, but someone else could come sliding through."
Begin slowing down earlier, and give yourself more room to come to a complete stop, he said.
Any type of equipment or option used to deal with winter conditions snow tires, chains and four-wheel drive does not replace the need for cautious driving.
All vehicles will still be susceptible to harsh weather conditions.
"Four-wheel drive is not an easy fix to the problems of winter driving," Forgay said. "It helps, but it's not a cure-all. If you hit ice in four-wheel drive, you'll just have four wheels skidding instead of two.
"Most accidents are caused by people overrating their vehicle's ability to stop, and by people overrating their ability to drive in bad weather."
Driving slow enough for the conditions, even when running behind schedule, is the best way to guarantee a safe arrival.
According to Chase, trying to rush in bad weather can lead to problems and no matter how fast a vehicle is going, if it ends up in a ditch the driver will not get to where they were going.
"It's better just to take your time and drive safely," he said.
Common sense also needs to carry over to decisions about off-road driving. "It's fine to go out and have some fun four-wheeling, but drivers need to be careful about where they are going, and make sure they have the proper equipment," Moffat County Sheriff Buddy Grinstead said.
"Given the recent amount of snow and wind, some county roads will become impassable, and will not have winter maintenance done," he said. "That's when a lot of drivers run into trouble, and getting to them can be difficult.
"Drivers need to remember that every mile they go in, the wind is blowing over their tracks and they are getting farther from any possible help. If someone becomes stuck or stranded, a fun event can turn into a search and rescue mission."
Grinstead also recommends off-road drivers carry chains, shovels and a cell phone.
"Just be prepared, be careful, and use common sense."
Some other simple steps to deal with winter road conditions include:
Winterize your vehicle Make sure your wipers are in good condition, and that your vehicle has the proper antifreeze and tires to deal with the season.
Plan ahead Before traveling, check the road and weather conditions on your route by either calling the Colorado Department of Transportation's Information Line at (877) 315-7623 (303) 639-1111 in the Denver-metro area or logging on to www.cotrip.org or www.dot.state.co.us.
Make extra time to clean and start your vehicle the windshield, windows and mirrors should be completely cleaned off, and the vehicle given enough time to properly warm up.
Carry a winter survival kit when traveling even short distances, a survival kit including a sleeping bag, extra clothes, socks, boots and gloves, flares, matches, a bottle of water and an energy or candy bar should be stowed in the vehicle.
Double-check equipment before leaving to make sure any needed tools, materials or kits are in your vehicle.

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