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February 4, 2014

ISP encourages safe driving during winter weather

Indiana’s next blast of winter weather is upon us. Warnings about hazardous driving conditions will be issued by city, county and state law enforcement as well as by local and national media. Many will heed the warnings. Many more will ignore the warnings.

With another major storm approaching, the Indiana State Police again remind motorists to limit travel when possible. If travel is not necessary, drivers should stay home. Most calls for service received by the Indiana State Police and other police agencies during winter storms are for crashes and motorists that slide off state roads and interstates. It is important to remember that snow and ice covered roads do not cause crashes. The crashes are caused by unsafe driving on the snow and ice covered roadway.

If one chooses to drive during poor or hazardous driving conditions they must:

1. Leave sooner and expect travel time to be twice as long as normal

2. Drive more slowly

3. Increase the following distance between themselves and the vehicle in front of them by at least five times greater than normal

4. Approach intersections with great care; other drivers not paying attention will slide through red lights

5. Signal all lane changes and turning movements

The posted speed limit may be more than twice as fast as the reduced speed drivers should travel to decrease the possibility of a collision or loss of control that puts a vehicle into a retaining wall, ditch or another motorist. Indiana code 9-21-5-1 specifies “Speed shall be restricted as necessary to avoid colliding with a person, vehicle, or other conveyance on, near or entering a highway.” A motorist losing control of their vehicle or who is involved in a crash resulting in a police report should expect to be cited for this offense, which carries a maximum fine of $500.

If motorists are involved in a crash and are uninjured, and all vehicles are drivable, involved drivers should move to a safe place completely off the road, be it the next exit or the parking lot of a business, to await law enforcement response for a police report. It is important to remember crashes involving injury or lane blockage receive priority attention ahead of property damage crashes. It should be kept in mind that it may be an extended period of time before law enforcement arrives. The reason and purpose for moving drivable vehicles off the road is to avoid secondary crashes of other inattentive motorists crashing into the scene or sideswiping vehicles that have only moved to the side of the road.

In addition, crash scenes with vehicles disabled in the roadway and state police presence may have the state police vehicle facing the wrong way with emergency lights and headlights on. This is to warn approaching motorists of impending danger.

Indiana’s Move Over law states motorists must change lanes away from the emergency or utility vehicle if they can do it safely. If not possible to move away from the emergency vehicle, motorists must slow down and proceed with caution. Motorists should give emergency workers room to work, slowing down and/or moving over when safe to do so..

Vehicles included in the Move Over law are:

• Police vehicles

• Ambulances

• Fire trucks and rescue equipment

• Highway incident-response vehicles

• Highway work vehicles, including snow plows

• Vehicle recovery equipment (tow trucks)

The point of not calling police agencies for road information during snow emergencies cannot be overstressed. Calling police departments about road conditions may delay action on critical life emergency 911 calls. Road conditions are likely the same for the area one wants to know about as it is looking out the front window.

Citizens calling state police facilities to ask for road conditions will be directed to either call the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Road and Weather automated system at 800-262-7623 or visit the INDOT traffic map at http://indot.carsprogram.org/main.jsf. The 800 phone service is voice-activated and updated with timely road conditions across Indiana. The INDOT Web link allows users to check on specific locations for current closures and other road information.

For Indiana County Travel Status Reports, visit http://www.in.gov/dhs/traveladvisory.

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