At any moment, sleet or snow could begin to fall and within minutes, an otherwise normal roadway can turn dangerous, or even deadly.
As the Indiana State Police is tasked with investigating a number of vehicle crashes on Indiana highways and interstates during the winter driving season, one common driving behavior is frequently listed as the primary cause of a crash. That driving behavior is "speed too fast for conditions."
Motorists may be unaware of Indiana law pertaining to hazardous road conditions and the reduction of the speed. Indiana Code 9-21-5-1 states," A person may not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions, having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. Speed shall be restricted as necessary to avoid colliding with a person, vehicle, or other conveyance on, near, or entering a highway in compliance with legal requirements and with the duty of all persons to use due care."
Indiana Code 9-21-5-4(5) states, "The driver of each vehicle shall, consistent with section 1 of this chapter, drive at an appropriate reduced speed as follows: When special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions."
As a statistical example, the Putnamville District has investigated 118 motor vehicle crashes so far this year, in which the primary cause was listed as "speed too fast for conditions."
Another frequent and notorious crash causation factor is following too closely.
Indiana Code 9-21-8-14 states, "A person who drives a motor vehicle may not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of both vehicles, the time interval between vehicles, and the condition of the highway."
Considering a dry blacktop or concrete surface and the speed of the vehicle and stopping distance, a motorist operating their vehicle at 55 mph takes 224-feet to react, and then stop their vehicle.
Similarly, it takes the motorist 309-feet to react and then stop when traveling 70 mph, which is more than the length of a football field. Using this analogy, motorists should then understand the difference of trying to stop on roadways in good conditions versus roadways snow covered and slick.
While patrolling, troopers often see motorists traveling at or above the posted speed limits, as well as following too closely, on snow and ice covered roadways.
Motorists are encouraged to slow down and drive according to road conditions.
The following are tips provided by ISP regarding driving safe:
* Drive according to conditions,
* Do not follow too closely,
* Allow extra time to get to your destination,
* Drive sober and use seatbelts,
* Clear all windows of ice and snow and remove snow from hood, roof, headlights and taillights,
* Beware of bridges, underpasses, shaded areas and intersections where ice is slow to melt,
* Slow down to increase traction. Don't use cruise control on slick roads,
* Avoid abrupt stops and starts, slow down gradually and keep wheels turning to avoid losing traction, and
* Use low beam headlights to decrease glare from ice.
"We are going to use our efforts of enforcement and education to achieve our goal of reducing crashes and saving lives. We ask that you do you part by obeying the law and driving sensible," Putnamville District Commander Lt. Dan Jones said.
For Indiana road conditions between Dec. 1-March 31, call 1-800-261-ROAD (7623) or log on to the Indiana Department of Transportation's website at www.TrafficWise.in.gov.