Source: Post Register (Idaho Falls)
Author: Zach Kyle
Police offer tips to help you keep control of your car on winter highways
IDAHO FALLS - Every year, the Idaho State Patrol sees a spike in auto accidents when snow and ice hit the highways. ISP Sgt. Scott Zuagg said the increase in accidents is dramatic. "During the first snowstorm or two, we are as busy as can be during the commuter times," Zuagg said. "It's probably a 75 percent increase. It's more than double, anyway." The ISP had a few more calls for accidents during the first snowstorm of the year in early October. With weather reports calling for snow over the weekend in eastern Idaho, Zuagg said the ISP expects many more. Zuagg said drivers need a few storms to readjust to winter driving. Basically, he said they don't allow enough time to reach their destination and wind up sliding off the road or into other motorists because they forget the slick road basics: Drive slower. People should allow more space to brake and expect bridges to be icy, even when the highway isn't. Anticipate what will happen farther down the road than if the road were dry. Those are the obvious suggestions. Zuagg offered some less-obvious suggestions, such as don't assume all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicles make drivers impervious. Those vehicles accelerate faster on slick roads than two-wheel vehicles, but they don't slow down any faster. "The vast majority of one-vehicle accidents are all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive vehicles," Zuagg said. "Probably upward of 80 percent." Drivers should clear snow from their hood and roof to prevent visibility problems once they reach 50 or 60 mph on highways. Cruise control also causes problems on slick surfaces. "You can sense road conditions better than your cruise control," Zuagg said. "When you start to slide a little bit, you can react quicker than that cruise control. Tapping the brakes to disable the cruise control can cause you to slide." Winter is an important time to check wear on tires, said Joe Adams, assistant manager at Les Schwab Tire in Idaho Falls. Tires are considered bald when they wear down to 2/32-inch of tread. For winter conditions, Adams said tires need 4/32-inch to maintain grip. "As they say, it's where the rubber meets the road," Adams said. "I see a lot of worn-out tires. The majority of tires I see need a little TLC." Adams said drivers should also keep blankets and emergency kits in their cars in case they break down. He also recommends replacing old windshield wipers and replacing engine fluids and wiper fluid. Zach Kyle can be reached at 542-6746. Comment on this story on Post Talk at www.postregister.com/posttalk/.