With the new month of December came winter weather here in Northwest Arkansas. A cold front moved in quickly and caught many unsuspecting holiday travelers by surprise. Arkansas State Police reported at least 40 wrecks along Interstate 540 in Washington and Benton County, Arkansas in the early hours of December 1st. Police blamed an earlier rain, a quick drop in temperatures to below freezing, and unsafe driving as the catalyst for a wild night.
Drivers report seeing cars spinning down the interstate, pickups tumbling down hillsides, and even a thoroughbred horse running down the median. The horse, named Johnny G, escaped when the trailer he was riding in was smashed by a wreck. Police were happy to report that only 4 minor injuries were sustained (and that Johnny G was safe and back in his trailer, thanks to the Arkansas State Police and Washington County Sherriff’s Department).
This treacherous night is a reminder that we must remain vigilant when mother nature decides to make an ice rink out of our roadways. Here are some reminders from AAA that we should all be mindful of when icy or snowy weather hits:
- Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Appling the gas slowly to accelerate is the best method for retraining traction and avoiding skids. Don’t try to get moving in a hurry. And take time to slow down for a stoplight. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.
- Drive slowly. Everything takes longer on snow-covered roads. Accelerating, stopping, turning – nothing happens as quickly as on dry pavement. Give yourself time to maneuver by driving slowly.
- The normal dry pavement following distance of two to three seconds should be increased to eight to ten seconds. This increased margin of safety in front will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.
- Know your brakes. Whether you have antilock brakes or not, the best way to stop is threshold breaking. Keep the heel of your foot on the floor and use the ball of your foot to apply firm, steady pressure on the brake pedal.
- Don’t stop if you can avoid it. There’s a big difference in the amount of inertia it takes to start moving from a full stop versus how much it takes to get moving while still rolling. If you can slow down enough to keep rolling until the light changes, do it.
- Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads just starts your wheels spinning. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed down hill as slowly as possible.
- Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road. Get some inertia going on a flat roadway before you take on the hill.
- Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t. Even if you can drive well in the snow, not everyone else can. Don’t tempt fate: If you don’t have somewhere you have to be, watch the snow from indoors.
This last tip ultimately the best. Remember, you may be doing everything right, but the driver behind you may be doing everything wrong!