Winter conditions require even more caution on road

By Observer editorial December 01, 2010 05:29 pm
The recent crash involving a pickup truck hitting emergency vehicles parked along icy Interstate 84 in Ladd Canyon should serve as a wake-up call for everyone. The winter season multiplies highway dangers, and motorists need to be extra cautious.

An Oregon State Police trooper, rescue workers from La Grande Rural Fire Protection District and ambulance personnel from the City of La Grande were responding to an earlier crash when the Ladd wreck occurred. The pickup hit an OSP cruiser and a rescue truck before coming to rest against the back of an ambulance, which had a patient on board. There were no further injuries, but of course there could have been. We’d bet this near-tragedy wouldn’t have happened if the pickup driver — who by the way was hauling a trailer that separated from the truck when it crashed — had been just a little more cautious driving over the slippery road.

So wake up, motorists. Keep these few tips in mind, next time you hit the winter-time highway.

• Know before you go, as the Oregon Department of Transportation says. Up-to-the-minute road reports are posted on ODOT's website, www.tripcheck.com, and are are available by calling 5-1-1 or 1-800-977-6368. They are also available on www.lagrandeobserver.com. Just click on the weather summary at the top right of the first page, and it will take you to the local highway cameras and other links.

• Equip your vehicle with traction tires, and carry chains.

• Drive slower. Most crashes happen because the driver is going too fast for weather conditions.
 
• To avoid trouble remember to keep your distance from vehicles in front of you. Turn off the cruise control, be alert and cautious.

• Monitor conditions constantly. Look for signs of ice other than on the roadway, on windshield wipers, side view mirrors, road signs, trees or fences.

• If your vehicle feels like it’s floating, gradually slow down. Don’t slam on your brakes or you may skid out of control.

According to ODOT, more than 3,000 crashes occurred on snowy or icy roads in 2009. At least 31 people died and more than 1,400 were injured. Much of that could have been prevented, with a little common sense. As winter tightens its grip, take it easy and be careful. That way you won’t hurt yourself — or somebody else.