EDITORIAL: When bad weather and fast drivers collide
Readers may remember the “thumbs up” the newspaper gave to smart drivers for their safe, careful actions after the first snowstorm of the season this past November.
After what’s been happening in the last week or so, we’d like to take it back.
Lately, there have been crashes upon crashes upon crashes. Unlike what happened in November, several recent crashes put people in the hospital – four on Jan. 8-9 alone.
We know the weather has been bad. Ice, sleet, snow, gusting winds, whiteouts, drifts – the works.
But drivers, if they must travel, must drive according to the conditions and follow the basics. According to MnDOT, this means:
Turning on your headlights and wearing your seat belt.
Turning off your cruise control.
Slowing down; allow at least five car lengths, and preferably 10, between your vehicle and a plow.
Staying behind the snowplow. The road behind a snowplow is safer to drive on.
Watching for snowplows that turn or exit frequently, and often with little warning.
Never drive into a snow cloud.
People don’t think crashes will happen to them. They don’t think they will cause a crash. They don’t think about the domino-effect of a crash – how it ties up emergency response crews, officers, ambulance drivers and others who have to respond in the same kind of perilous weather conditions that caused the crash. Check that. We shouldn’t say “caused” because, as we were reminded by a trooper recently, ice and snow do not cause crashes. “I have been a state trooper for 26 years and hearing that ice caused a crash drives me nuts,” he told the newspaper in an e-mail. “It is the driver over driving the conditions and their abilities that caused the crash.”
Maybe getting a different perspective about crashes can help drivers avoid them. On Jan. 8, we came across a posting on Facebook from a Douglas County 911 dispatcher that offers a look at what happens when snow and bad driving collide. Here it is:
“Wet snow starts falling with a 10-degree temp. You have an Interstate that runs through your whole county, and so it begins. Ten crashes in under 20 minutes. Ten crashes on an interstate produce how many 911 calls? Wanna guess? Thirty to 40 or so, and I have one partner. Hmm, two dispatchers, 30+ calls in 20 minutes, yep that's fun. Oh but wait! We have 10 lines that are non-emergency. Oh yeah, we answer those too. Oh but wait! Your deputies and officers that aren't on crashes are trying to slow people down because they are over the speed limit (SLOW DOWN PEOPLE). So that traffic stop on the radio? Um, who answers that? Oh yeah, that's right. My partner and I do. Each radio transmission, you find yourself talking faster and faster and then the deputies talk faster and faster because you are, and pretty soon, it sounds like we've all inhaled helium! Your relief shows up and you #1, are so relieved because they were not in the crashes and are safe, and #2, you hug them and swear you'll name your next child after them! After they take the com, you slink out, wonder where you parked and thank your lucky stars the gym you belong to has a hot tub, where you sit until your prune fingers have prune fingers! Now I'm off to bed cause I go back in tomorrow at 5 a.m. to do it all again (yep, snow in the forecast).”
So please, the next time snow or ice is in the forecast, think of the dispatcher, think of the trooper, think of your family and friends, and stay home or slow down.