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Caution: Road may be slippery

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Music is blaring over the speakers, the air is warm as the heater works in overtime to combat the cold air outside the confines of the car. The world is bright, the sun shining off the snow making everything look pure and magical. Everything seems perfect, the holiday season is here and warm, gooey, homemade chocolate chips are all that you can think about.

Suddenly, another vehicle whips around the corner and every muscle seizes in your body. The other car definitely did not have enough space to pull out in front of you. The jolt of adrenaline hits as you slam the brakes and swerve. The roads are deceptively icy so you slide out of control. If you’re lucky, you just end up in the ditch, but we all know what happens if you’re not lucky.

The world is full of impatient people, especially in this day and age of having everything here and now. We’ve lost our ability to practice patience, and with the winter months coming up, this is an idea that especially needs to come back in style.

NWPR reported a staggering 149 snow-related car accidents within a two-day period in Spokane in 2013. KXLY reported several snow-related car accidents last year, their sources citing driving too fast as the main cause for accidents.

“Students from the west side need to know that it is a completely different animal [here] than over there, the ice there isn’t like the ice here,” Michelle Rasmussen, director of Parking and Transportation Services, said.

Ice in Cheney is different from regular black ice or ice in other areas of Washington because it’s a thin, clear sheet and once that snow falls it becomes impossible to see, especially with the dense fog that Eastern Washington tends to get in the winter months.

Now we can sit here and claim that the Cheney/Spokane area gets terrible winters, ice here is harder to see and that other people on the road just don’t know how to drive, but unfortunately that is just ignoring the real problem.

People these days just don’t know how to slow down. Everything needs to be fast. Coffee needs to be delivered promptly, the internet is supposed to deliver all of the answers with a single click and our phones keep us connected to the world at all times — there is even an app on campus that is supposed to rid you of that pesky wait time.

We simply hate waiting anymore, something that seems to have translated to our driving practices. People shoot out of off-ramps when there is barely enough space for them to do so, they pull out of parking lots with little thought about how close the approaching vehicle is and they whip around corners like they expect no one to be there.

“Slow down – this is huge. [This is] biggest issue, and the Police Department will tell you that … [students] really need to slow down,” Rasmussen said.

Sergeant Lorraine Hill from the EWU Police Department said “[Students] not understanding that they are in a situation that has black ice [is their biggest mistake] … students pounding on brakes are not able to stop [as quickly].”

We can’t even count how many times we’ve had to slam on the brakes because someone was unwilling to wait for us to pass before pulling out. This is an especially dangerous trend in the winter.

Drivers need to realize that the time it takes to stop during the winter is greater than during the other seasons.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) 2016-2017 Winter Driving Guide recommends that drivers put extra space between themselves and vehicles in front of them, as well as slowing down when approaching intersections, off-ramps, bridges and shady spots.

Those ‘bridge may be icy’, ‘watch for ice’ and ‘caution: road may be slippery’ road signs aren’t there just to make the road look pretty.

The EWU Police Department suggests the same precautions in their Winter Wise brochure, recommending that drivers go five to 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit, and that if your vehicle does lose traction the worst thing you can do is overcorrect. What you should do is steer into the direction your vehicle is going (this will help to straighten you out) and apply the brakes gently, don’t slam on them.

Sgt. Hill said that students need to realize what their cars can do, and suggested that to test how effective their brakes are they should drive down an empty road and hit the brakes really hard to see how quickly they stop. She also suggested that if you do get stuck, you can employ a rocking motion to help get yourself unstuck. All you do is drive forward until you can’t anymore, then reverse until you can’t and continue this until you either become unstuck or you have no choice but to call a tow truck.

If you do happen to end up in a slippery situation, there are ways to be prepared. Rasmussen suggests keeping your cellphone charged at all times as well as having an extra blanket and a bottle of water in your car. The WSDOT reiterates this, adding a flashlight, batteries, snacks, gloves, boots, a first-aid kit, tire chains, a snow scraper/brush, jumper cables and road flares.

Sgt. Hill said that if students do find themselves sliding, the best course of action is to put the vehicle in neutral, which takes power away from the wheels and will help you regain control of the vehicle.

Sgt. Hill also suggested that students get their cars checked before the snow really starts falling to make sure that everything is up to snuff. The EWU Police Department will perform vehicle safety checks after Thanksgiving, with a tentative date set for Nov. 30 in parking lots nine and 16.

Rasmussen also suggested for those living in the residential halls that they take their cars home and leave them there for the winter quarter. Students wanting to travel to Spokane during winter quarter can take the bus, which Rasmussen said she believes is safer because the bus drivers know the road. Parking also become a big problem during the winter quarter, as the lines become harder to see, so students tend to park where they think the lines are, versus where they actually are.

The biggest precaution you can take, however, is to plan ahead and understand that there is no place you need to go that is worth risking your life.

So proceed with caution and patience, and we’ll see you this winter.

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The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.
Caution: Road may be slippery