Winter Driving Poses Special Challenges, Dangers

This pickup slid off Highway 260 last week after hitting a patch of black ice. The occupants escaped injury, but received a frightening lesson in the too often ignored hazards of winter driving.

This pickup slid off Highway 260 last week after hitting a patch of black ice. The occupants escaped injury, but received a frightening lesson in the too often ignored hazards of winter driving. Photo by Andy Towle. |

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Driving hazards are a yearlong problem in Rim Country: Elk in the fall, flatlanders in the summer — and black ice in the winter.

Two men got a fright Wednesday when their loaded down pickup skidded off Highway 260 after hitting a patch of ice.

The white truck went down an embankment and came to rest near a large pine tree. The truck ended up with a crumpled rear end — but no injuries.

Reports of vehicle slide offs this year are down from years past. Also mercifully lacking — weather-related fatalities or stranded motorists.

In 2011, a grandmother and her grandson found themselves stuck when their small passenger car spun out on the Control Road in the middle of a snowfall. Fortunately, Good Samaritans shoveled them out.

In 2009, rescuers saved a family of five, including a pregnant woman, after their vehicle got stuck in the snow on the Rim. The group was reportedly Christmas tree hunting in the Forest Lakes area.

Both of these rescues involved visitors unfamiliar with the area and weather. But both families did the right thing by staying with their vehicles.

With more winter weather inevitably on the way and holiday travel, AAA officers these winter driving tips:

If you’re stranded ...

• Get the weather forecast before a long-distance drive or before driving in isolated areas. Let others know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.

• Keep at least half a tank of gasoline in your vehicle.

• Pack a cellular telephone plus blankets, gloves, hats, food, water and needed medication.

• If you become snowbound, stay with your vehicle. It provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. In 2009, a 38-year-old Young man died of hypothermia after walking away from his vehicle on the Young road.

• Don’t over exert yourself if you try to dig out your vehicle.

• Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna or in a rolled up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible to help rescuers to find you.

• Make sure the exhaust pipe isn’t clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust could cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment.

• Use whatever you can to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps.

• If possible, run the engine and heater just long enough to remove the chill.

Driving in the snow:

• Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Applying the gas slowly to accelerate can restore traction and avoid skids. Take time to slow down for a stoplight.

• Drive slowly. Everything takes three times as long on snow-covered roads.

• 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 power up hills, which just starts your wheels spinning. Get a little momentum going before you reach the hill and let inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed to go down.

Don’t stop going up a hill. There’s nothing worse than trying to get moving up a hill on an icy road.

• Stay home. If you really don’t have to go out, don’t.

• Ease up on the gas pedal. Every 5 mph over 60 mph is like tacking on an extra $.24 per gallon. This means driving 65 mph rather than 60 mph will cost you $3.697 per gallon, and driving 70 mph rather than 65 mph will cost you $3.937 per gallon.

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