Police offer driver safety tips ahead of wintry weather

Kathy Stewart and Max Smith, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – With snow and later ice predicted to fall over the D.C. region Sunday, emergency responders urge drivers to review basic winter weather safety tips.

The Maryland State Highway Administration’s Charlie Gischlar says drivers who have to head out in rough weather should be prepared with a full tank of gas, decent tires and plenty of patience.

Gischlar says that with two football games in the area Sunday – the Redskins at FedEx Field, in Landover, the Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore – thousands of people will be on the I-95 corridor. “So if you’re trying to head out to the game, keep an eye on the weather. If it does go bad, know before you go,” Gischlar says, advising drivers to give themselves lots of extra time both Sunday and Monday.

“Even people with four-wheel drive, if you encounter ice, you’re going to have no control of your vehicle; you’re just going to skid in four-wheel drive,” Gischlar warns.

If drivers see a snow plow or salt truck on the road, Gischlar says it is important to be patient and not try to pass them.

“The uncleared and untreated road is ahead of them, and the treated roadway is behind them, so there is no earthly reason why you should pass them. If you do pass them and you end up skidding out or becoming disabled, it disrupts everything, and they have to pull over and help you of course. But that also is letting all that weather pile up on the roadway ahead, so that’s not really fair to other motorists and it’s not safe either,” Gischlar says.

Lt. Steve Hawkins, with the Virginia State Police in Fairfax, recommends putting that ice scraper in your car and any other safety supplies now – before Sunday’s weather hits.

Items such as blankets, food and drinks can come in handy if your car becomes disabled. A bag of sand or salt can help give your tires the traction they need to get up a hill or just get out of the driveway.

If are out on the road in the bad weather, Hawkins says, “Drive at a safe speed, and that may not be the speed limit.”

Most accidents happen within the first two hours after a storm begins, so make sure you buckle up. Put down the cell phone and pay attention to the road, and know who is in front of you and all around you. And give yourself plenty of time and space to safely stop, he says.

“If this weather hits like forecasters are saying, then we will be busy. But we will have resources and troopers out on the roadway to respond to all the incidents,” Hawkins says.

But if you don’t have to be on the road Sunday, then stay home so VDOT can clear the roads, he says.

If reason doesn’t change your ways, there are always cheesy slogans to help remind drivers how to stay safe.

“We say ‘Don’t crowd the plow’, and ‘On ice and snow, take it slow’,” Gischlar says. There’s also the old, “Know before you go.”

Stay with WTOP for the latest on road and weather conditions.

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