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Slippery snow conditions threaten safety
Published 1/8/2013 6:00:00 AM
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Kyle Koch/The Daily EvergreenSnowy conditions in Pullman made vehicle and foot traffic unpredictable on Monday. Drivers should cut their speed almost in half when driving in the snow, local law enforcement said.

In the Pullman area, police responded to the increased number of collisions and other vehicular incidents this week.

The WSU Police Department responded to four non-injury collisions and two disabled vehicles. The Pullman Police Department responded to nine weather related non-injury incidents as well.

Lieutenant Steve Hansen of the WSU PD advised those who decide to drive in the treacherous conditions to make sure their vehicles are set up to drive.
“A lot of the disabled vehicles we saw did not have snow tires,” Hansen said. “It’s also important to check the hills for gravel before going down them.”

Commander Chris Tennant of the Pullman Police Department suggested leaving extra time for commuting during the winter season.

“It is important to clean off all the snow and ice from the windshield and windows before driving,” he said.

When it comes to maintaining roads, WSU Facility Operations will clear the streets first. Their second priority is cleaning up the parking lots. Due to the priority system, Hansen said it is important to remember that parking lots tend to be icier.

Downtown roads tend to be safer and clearer than residential roads, something Tennant said drivers should keep in mind.

Reducing driving speed by five to ten miles per hour can mean the difference between walking away from a car accident and suffering serious injuries, Whitman County Sherriff Brett Meyers said. A slower speed allows drivers to regain control of their skidding vehicle, but if they can’t regain control a slow speed crash is less dangerous, he said.

Skids are caused when the tires can no longer grip the road, according to the Washington Driver’s Guide. Skids occur when drivers travel too fast for the conditions.

“People don’t like to (slow down) because it feels like you’re creeping along,” Meyers said.

Trooper Troy Briggs, the Washington State Patrol District 4 public information officer, said braking sooner and accelerating slower will also help prevent skidding.

“Speed limits are made for optimum road conditions, not when the roads have snow and ice on them,” Briggs said.

Meyers said drivers should add time to their commute so they arrive at their destination safely.

“I think what people need to remember is an extra 10 or 15 minutes added to your commute is a lot less than being stuck in the side of the road waiting for a tow truck,” he said.

Also when roads have ice and snow, vehicle stopping distances can double, Meyers said. Drivers can prevent crashes by increasing the distance between their vehicle and the vehicle ahead of them, he said.

“A good rule of thumb is on normal roads — so in the middle of summer and dry roads — is one car length for every ten miles an hour,” Briggs said. “In the winter time when your stopping distances could double, then I would say a safe bet would try and double that.”

Briggs said the State Patrol saw an increase in accidents beginning Sunday night in District 4, which includes Eastern Washington from the Canadian border to the Pullman area.



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