‘Ice and snow, take it slow’

TROY — With snow and ice also comes potentially hazardous driving conditions that could lead to accidents, and the Miami County Engineer’s Office has one piece of advice to drivers: take it slow.

“We have a catchphrase we like, it’s ‘ice and snow, take it slow.’ So if that’s one thing I could get out to the public, that’d be great,” Miami County Engineer Paul Huelskamp said. “Most everybody realizes they need to slow down, I mean, better late than never to your destination.”

According to Miami County Sheriff David Duchak, 956 crashes occurred in Miami County between November 2019 and March 2020; this does not include crashes recorded by the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The sheriff’s office typically sees an increase in crashes in the winter months in relation to how much snow and ice storms the area receives; Duchak’s sentiment mirrors Huelskamp’s.

“(My) biggest piece of advice would be to slow down and drive defensively, expecting that a car may not be able to stop in time at an intersection because of snow or ice-covered roadways,” Duchak said.

The three emergency levels set in place when winter weather strikes are determined by the sheriff and based on his observations, as well as input from deputies, the engineer’s office and snowplow drivers. The emergency levels are designed to offer some guidance as to what the road conditions are on county roadways to assist with making appropriate decisions and are as follows:

• Level one: Roadways are hazardous. Motorists are urged to drive very cautiously.

• Level two: Roadways are hazardous with blowing and/or drifting snow and possible icy conditions. Only those who feel it is necessary to drive should be out on the roadways. Employees should contact their employers with regards to questions about reporting to work.

• Level three: Road conditions are extremely poor and should only be utilized by emergency personnel. No one should be out during these conditions unless it is absolutely necessary to travel. All employees should contact their employers to ascertain if they should report to work.

The Miami County Sheriff’s Office recommends that motorists avoid driving in hazardous winter weather if they are able to. If a motorist must be on the road, their car should be prepared with items such as blankets, jumper cables, gloves, a flashlight, a small shovel, bags of sand or salt, boots and extra clothing. In addition to this, it is recommended to practice winter driving techniques in a snowy, open parking lot, to become familiar with how a vehicle handles in similar conditions.

In addition to decreasing speed and taking it slow, motorists are advised to leave at least three times more space than usual between their car and the car ahead of them. Other tips include braking gently to avoid skidding and easing off the brake if the vehicle’s wheels lock up, turning on headlights to increase visibility to other motorists, keep lights and the windshield clean, use low gears to keep traction especially on hills and avoid using cruise control or overdrive on icy roads.

“With snow, (crashes) are usually slide-offs with very little injury or property damage. With ice events, the crashes tend to be more severe with respect to injuries and property damage,” Duchak said.

Motorists are also cautioned to be careful on bridges, overpasses and infrequently traveled roads, which will freeze first. Even at temperatures above freezing, if the conditions are wet, a motorist may encounter ice in shady areas or on exposed roadways like bridges. It’s also recommended that motorists stay behind snowplows and trucks, due to drivers having limited visibility.

“If you’re behind a plow truck, stay back away from them at least 50 feet because as they’re plowing, snow is coming off the plow blade and everything, and there’s also times where they’re at an intersection and they’re going to stop and back up in order to clear out an intersection all the way,” Huelskamp said.