Wintry weather is here and the Kansas Highway Patrol wants motorists to be prepared and be safe on roads covered with snow and ice in order to cut down on accidents.
KHP Trooper Adam Winters, of the patrol's general headquarters in Topeka, said after driving in warmer weather, motorists sometimes forget how to drive on slick roads and in low visibility once the winter season begins.
Accidents do happen, Winters said, and the best way to prevent incidents such as crashes or slide-offs is to be prepared, plan ahead and practice safe driving.
"Drive slow, take your time and give yourself more time when heading to a destination," he said.
One of the most common factors that leads to accidents that he sees on state roadways is the use of cruise control in vehicles, Winters said.
"People use cruise control; don't use it," he said. "Leave it off."
It's best for the driver to turn off the cruise control so they have complete control of the vehicle's acceleration during adverse conditions on roads, Winters said.
"The wheels start to slip, but they're still putting power to the road," he said. "It's basically taking power away from the wheels."
The most common incidents he sees involve vehicles that have slid off into a median or ditch, and one-vehicle non-injury accidents involving the vehicle striking another vehicle or object on the roadside, Winters said.
Common sense says to monitor the weather, travel only when necessary, keep speed down, and drive defensively, a news release said. KHP also offers the following suggestions for safe winter travel:
* First, prepare the vehicle. Extreme temperatures can be hard on vehicles. Check the fluids, ensuring that the radiator is winterized, the gas tank is over half full, and there is plenty of windshield washing fluid. Check belts, hoses and brake systems for excessive wear. Have the exhaust system checked; small leaks can allow carbon monoxide to enter the passenger compartment. Check tire treads for adequate traction and replace wiper blades if they are ineffective.
"Make sure tires are in good condition and properly inflated," Winters said.
Winters said it is also a good idea to make sure the vehicle is stocked with supplies such as an ice scraper, some type of abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter for traction and control, jumper cables, a flashlight and batteries, blankets, water and food.
"Also check the defrosters to make sure they're working and check the battery for sufficient voltage," he said.
KHP recently released its activity over the Christmas weekend holiday reporting period, which this year ran from 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21, through 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 25. During that time, the patrol worked four fatal crashes, which resulted in five fatalities. None of the fatal crashes were alcohol-related. KHP did work four separate DUI-related accidents. KHP personnel assisted 1,176 motorists during the period, a news release said.
Some of the numbers in the report are up from last year and Winters said this could be attributed to the fact that the reporting period for 2012 was longer than 2011, which ran from Dec. 23-26.
"I think that has a little to do with it," he said. "You add an extra day of travels and that will certainly increase the number of citations and things."
The report showed there were four DUI-related crashes; up from three reported last year. The number of speed citations increased from 670 last year to 1,003 this year. The number of speed warnings went up from 761 last year to 1,205 this year. While the number of adult seatbelt warnings stayed the same at 18, the number of adult seatbelt citations increased from 162 to 264.
There were four teen seatbelt citations and one teen seatbelt warning this year compared to none in both categories last year. The number of child restraint citations went up slightly from 23 to 26 and child restraint warnings increased from three incidents to four. The number of motorist assists (slide-offs, tows, and broken-down vehicles) rose from 858 to 1,176, the report said.
Motorists who are involved in a traffic crash, or need assistance, can call 911 or contact KHP at *47 from a cell phone. They can call *KTA if traveling on the Kansas Turnpike. To find out road conditions, call 511 from a landline or cell phone, or view conditions online at www.kandrive.org.