Benjamin Franklin once said that "failing to plan is planning to fail," and as it turns out, the message Adair County Sheriff Jeff Vandewater has for safe winter driving pertains to planning for trouble before it starts.
Adair County as yet to see severe winter driving, yet there are many ways people get tripped up and into accidents, especially in the first few episodes of weather the season brings.
"It seems that we have short memories, and that takes a couple of days of ice, snow or other poor winter driving conditions before we all remember the basic things that we need to do to safely drive in Iowa during the winter months," Vandewater said.
Safe winter driving, Vandewater stated, begins with driving an appropriate speed based on the road and conditions you're facing. Vandewater says speed limits are set based on perfect conditions. You can give yourself more reaction time by following the vehicle in front of you at an increased, safe distance. Accelerating cautiously up hills or inclines helps so that tires don't spin and lose contact with pavement.
"Driving too fast for the conditions, following too closely and using their phone [are some ways people get in trouble in winter]," Vandewater said. "A high level of concentration is needed to drive safely in poor driving conditions. Don't overestimate your vehicle's ability. A four-wheel drive SUV or pickup has the ability to possibly accelerate better than some vehicles, but four-wheel drive does not help you in stopping later."
Getting into a snag in winter driving can happen to anyone. Vandewater suggests planning ahead by wearing seasonable clothing while driving so you're prepared if you get stranded.
Also, packing an emergency kit in your vehicle is important. Items that could be included in this kit are jumper cables, an ice scraper with a brush, a blanket or sleeping bag, a flashlight, a first aid kit, reflective triangles or a road flare, water or non-perishable snacks or food items, a shovel, a multi-tool or knife, a winter coat with hats and gloves, and water proof matches or a lighter.
"No one really plans to go into the ditch or be involved in an accident, but I see many people people as being unprepared for the cold weather. Having just a t-shirt on or even a sweatshirt on when it's below zero is not safe. If something happens and you're in an accident and your window is broke, or if you need to change your own tire, it's not safe to be wearing clothing appropriate for a 40 degree day," Vandewater said. "When it gets below freezing with any kind of wind, it can be a serious situation. It doesn't take long for frostbite to occur."