When there’s ice or snow, drive slow

December 10, 2013 • Local News

On Saturday, [auth] the New Mexico Highway Department closed Hwy. 285 between Roswell and Vaughn. Buddy Dickman of Remco Towing said his company was on call in Chaves County.

“We had three trucks running and between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., we towed 11 vehicles — 10 from 285 North and one from 70.”

He spoke of two rollovers that occurred. The second narrowly missed hitting Dickman as he was attempting to right the first vehicle.

“We had to get three women out of the pickup (the second vehicle) while the motor was still running. That is a dangerous situation.”

Dickman could not say how many people had run off the side of the road into a ditch. The conditions were among the worst — a sheet of ice across the highway, combined with freezing rain and fog.

Even after Hwy. 285 was closed, law enforcement had to continue making trips into the area to help stranded motorists. Dickman said the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office was out in force.

“There are not enough numbers for officers to cover all the accidents.”

Last weekend was a reminder that winter is with us no matter what the calendar says. People should drive accordingly.

Snow is the most common cause of icy road conditions. Statistics indicate that most accidents occur following a light snowfall because people are lulled into a false sense of security.

Freezing rain is even more treacherous because it creates black ice. Black ice is not necessarily black — the color of the ice reveals the color of the road surface and generally looks like wet roads.

This black ice layer means no friction for tires. Correcting a skid on black ice is nearly impossible. Losing control on ‘black ice’ occurs even at slow speeds

Sleet is similar to freezing rain. However, sleet happens when the raindrops freeze into ice pellets in mid-air before hitting the ground. Both result in black ice.

The best recommendation for dealing with freezing rain and icy roads is to wait for conditions to improve.

In both snowy and icy conditions, take it slow.

In fact, take no fast actions, such as slamming on the brakes. The slide will turn into a spin if the brakes are applied. Likewise, accelerate slowly. Pressing on the gas pedal when trying to get started after a stop may cause fishtailing. Sometimes the best way to accelerate is by simply taking your foot off the brake.

Always wear a seatbelt. It’s the law and when driving in bad road conditions, it may be the difference between life and death.

Plan ahead. Be aware of the road conditions all along the proposed route. Prepare to take extra time during a long road trip. If necessary, check areas, such as towns along the route, where it might be safe to stop and check into a hotel. Better to arrive late than not at all.

Dickman said: “There’s nothing sadder than going to the scene of an accident and seeing all the Christmas presents scattered across the ground.”

Carry a safety pack with food, snacks or candy, water thermos, a blanket or sleeping bag. A road hazard kit with reflective triangles or flares can alert others to your presence. Flares should be used sparingly, and only if another vehicle is visible.

Stay with the vehicle. Getting out to walk to find help can mean getting lost in a remote location. Also don’t get out of the vehicle to flag down another motorist who also may not be able to stop.

Conserve fuel. It may seem better to keep the car and heater running to stay warm, but once the fuel is gone, that resource is lost. There’s also a possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, particularly if the vehicle has become buried in snow.

Experts recommend turning on the vehicle long enough to get the car warm and then turning it off. Vehicle batteries also need to be conserved. Light inside the car may seem comforting, but it’s better to carry a flashlight.

Cell phones may be useless in these conditions. Try calling or texting, but conserve phone batteries, too. Let people know your route, the time you’re leaving and the estimated time of arrival so they can contact authorities.

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