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Schuylkill police depts. to step up driving enforcement Feb. 12-16

Published February 11. 2010 05:00PM

What do sweethearts, patriotic partiers and Fat Tuesday revelers have in common?

Celebrations that could involve alcohol, drinking and driving, and driving too fast for winter conditions.

To help everyone celebrate safely during the February holidays Valentine's Day, Presidents Day and Fat Tuesday police departments will conduct a special safe-driving enforcement between Friday, Feb. 12 and Tuesday, Feb 16.

Police departments in Schuylkill County are planning extra patrols and sobriety checkpoints during these winter holidays.

Because the February holidays also fall within winter months, driving in unpredictable weather can result in crashes from traveling too fast for conditions. When motorists' perception is compromised by drinking, they can manifest such aggressive driving behaviors as speeding, tailgating or making careless lane changes. Harmless holiday fun can quickly become ugly if partiers choose to get behind the wheel after drinking.

More than 7,700 motorists in Pennsylvania learned first-hand the dangers of aggressive driving on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways last year. That's how many crashes resulted from motorists speeding, tailgating or making careless lane changes during adverse weather conditions.

To increase safety during the winter months, PennDOT is working with state police and local law enforcement to undertake an aggressive driving campaign focused on driving too fast for conditions.

From now through the end of March, about 300 municipal police departments are enforcing driving too fast for conditions laws, which include an expectation of reduction in speed and increased room between vehicles

In 2009, municipal and state police tallied more than 237,000 citations and arrests between January and September 2009.

Nationally, adverse weather conditions are involved in 20 percent of traffic fatalities. Over a million crashes each year are weather-related. Although some crashes are unavoidable, the majority occur because people drive too fast for conditions.

In 2008 in Pennsylvania, there were more than 7,700 crashes and 51 fatalities on snowy, slushy or ice-covered roadways where aggressive driving behaviors such as speeding or making careless changes led to the crash.

Overall during January, February and December last year, Pennsylvania reported 37,287 crashes and 314 fatalities.

Those three months had the highest number of crashes for the year.

Here are some tips to remember while driving this winter.

Slow down. The most important thing to remember when driving in winter weather is that you must do everything more slowly than usual. Rapid movements can lead to a loss of control. Even if you are traveling at or under the posted speed limit, you can still be cited for driving too fast for conditions in bad weather.

Increase the space between vehicles. Tailgating is a bad idea in even the best of weather conditions.

The distance required to stop under slick conditions is much greater than what's needed under normal driving circumstances. Experts recommend leaving double or triple the usual distance between vehicles. It's also important to anticipate increased braking time when approaching intersections and stops.

Know your car. Knowing how to handle your vehicle how to apply the brakes in a skid, for instance is important.

Stay calm. Inclement conditions often mean that traveling well under the speed limit is necessary. Getting frustrated and driving aggressively is not likely to save you time. It's also important to not panic if you start to slide on ice. Steer the wheel in the direction you want the front end to go to straighten your vehicle.

Be vigilant. You need every bit of your mind on driving when navigating winter roads. Steer clear of all distractions like phones, changing the radio and eating. Be ready to ask someone else to drive if you're tired, have been drinking or are impaired in any way.

Buckle up. The safest, most competent driver in the world can still get hit by another motorist. Buckling up is the best way to protect yourself in a crash.

PennDOT urges motorists partying this winter to travel with a designated driver, drive at a reduced speed appropriate for quickly changing weather conditions and practice safe driving.

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