With more foul weather potentially heading to the area and the merriment of the holidays a few days away, local law enforcement officials are reminding all motorists to do their part in making holiday traveling safe during the upcoming Christmas and New Year's Day.
Weather bulletins provided by the National Weather Service to the Clay County Sheriff's and Brazil City Police departments are speculating about the severity of the conditions expected to arrive in the area late Tuesday. Keeping a watchful eye on the weather is important year-round, but especially important for both departments during the winter months.
"(Weather forecasters) say we're going to get another nasty round of weather and we're getting ready for it," Chief Deputy Rob Gambill told The Brazil Times Monday. "All the deputies will be ready. We also rely heavily upon our reserve deputies, who volunteer their time to be out there."
During the holidays, Gambill said the department arranges for deputies to travel the county roads looking for impaired and/or aggressive drivers and stranded motorists, while also maintaining patrols along Interstate-70.
"We try, especially in bad weather, to work with Indiana State Police (troopers) to check I-70 for stranded motorists," Gambill said. "During bad weather, motorists really need to use caution and slow down during the types of driving conditions it creates."
When ice covers the roads, it is dangerous driving conditions for everyone.
"It doesn't really matter what you drive -- a 4-wheel drive vehicle or not -- you can't control it while driving on ice covered roads," Brazil City Police Captain Terry Harrison said, adding the department is also ready for the holiday traffic but dreads the idea of more foul weather arriving in the area. "Until city, county or state road crews are able to get on the roads, officers are dealing with the same driving conditions everyone else is when responding to calls. When there is ice on the roads, it's dangerous and people need to use common sense. If they don't need to drive, they need to stay home."
According to a press release by Lieutenant and commander Mike Eslinger of the Indiana State Police Terre Haute Post, 16 people were killed in traffic accidents on Indiana roadways during the holiday driving period last year.
ISP will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) -- which is a federally funded program that allows troopers to work overtime and patrol area roadways over the upcoming holidays -- and the State Wide Driving under the Influence Project
Troopers will specifically look for drivers who speed, follow too closely, make unsafe lane changes, drive aggressively, fail to wear a seat belt or properly restrain their children in a child safety seat and aggressively search for and arrest anyone driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Indiana State Police motor carrier inspectors and troopers trained to enforce federal motor carrier safety regulations will also be working throughout the holiday period focusing on commercial motor vehicle violations.
Law enforcement officials encourage all motorists to observe the following safety tips:
* If planning to travel, make sure you're well rested because a fatigued driver is potentially a dangerous driver,
* Don't drink and drive. If a person is going to consume alcohol, they need to make sure they have a designated driver,
* Clear away any ice or snow on the vehicle's windows, turn signals and lights to allow visibility for the driver and vehicle visibility for other motorists,
* Don't follow other vehicles too closely and drive at an appropriate speed for the weather conditions,
* Utilize turn signals when changing lanes and making turns,
* Make sure everyone is buckled up properly,
* Check the vehicle's tire inflation, windshield wipers and fluid,
* Keep the gas tank at least half-full to avoid gas-lines freezing, and
* Schedule and allow for extra drive time during bad weather conditions for a safe arrival at your holiday destination.
To report an impaired or erratic driver, dial 911.
Emergency kit for drivers
If a motorist becomes stranded in foul weather while traveling, officials say a bad situation can be made better by having a vehicle emergency kit. The kit should include:
* Blankets and extra warm clothing,
* A bright piece of cloth to tie on the antenna,
* Sand or non-clumping cat litter for use as traction,
* A flashlight and portable radio with extra batteries,
* Some non-perishable food items and water,
* Booster (jumper) cables and emergency flares,
* First-aid kit and necessary medications,
* A cell phone and car charger,
* Ice scraper and snow brush,
* Tire repair kit and pump, and
* Extra windshield washer fluid.